September 23-26, 2010
Back in May, in Weihai, we met Jim Carter, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Executive Director for Alumni Affairs, at Murray State University, along with several other staff and faculty. They were participating in a several week stay at Shandong University, learning Chinese culture. Our paths crossed numerous times, and ultimately Deb and I were invited to visit Murray State after Deb had recovered sufficiently from her hip surgery to travel.
We flew to Nashville, Tennessee, and rented a car for the drive over to Murray, Kentucky. It was a pleasant two hour drive, and we arrived at the Curris Center, where we were to room during our visit, with no difficulty. The Curris Center is a large student center with food service and various meeting rooms in addition to a wide variety of student services and book store. There are several guest suites, very nicely appointed, on the third floor, and that is where we stayed. Our first impression on arriving on campus was that the campus was well groomed, spacious, and attractive. The students working at the information/reception desk were Chinese, and so we had a good opportunity to see that these students were very happy to be at Murray State. They were extremely courteous, as one would expect, but very excited about their life and their academic studies at Murray State. Here are some scenes in Curris Center:
Jim and his wife, Debbie, met us and drove us to a restaurant just outside of Murray for dinner, where we meet most of the Weihai visit delegation (Discover China Program). We enjoyed catching up with everyone as we dined. The delegates all recalled very fondly their time in Weihai, and all expressed the desire to return as soon as possible. Of course, they were very interested in catching up on the students and faculty at Shandong University whom they came to know while there.
The following morning, Jim met us for breakfast, and we toured the campus before beginning a series of meetings with the international education office staff and university academic administration. The tour of campus reinforced our initial impressions of the beauty and excellent maintenance of the campus. While older buildings quite clearly had been adapted to different uses than they had when first built, alterations were appropriate for the newer uses, and there was no evidence of lack of maintenance.
Meetings with the international office personnel showed a well-organized operation with key personnel responsible for each aspect of international student services, from recruitment to admissions, to financial aid, to English as a Second Language, to study abroad, and so on. The Director of Institute for International Studies, Dr. Luis Canales, articulated a clear vision for the expanding international student population at Murray State, with a strong interest in both increasing the numbers of students and in diversifying the population. I felt that the personnel demonstrated both high levels of confidence and competence in their jobs. Dr. Guangming Zou, Director of ESL Programs, described how the ESL programs support International students who need additional English to prepare to enroll in university classes. Mark Galloway, Associate Director for International Enrollment, described the admission process for international students, and Bill McKibbens, Associate Director for International Student & Scholar Services, told us about services and scholarships for international students. I also look forward to working with Jennifer Dickey, Student Abroad Advisor, to encourage Murray State Students to study in China!
During our tour of the campus, we were impressed by the number and variety of academic programs! They include the humanities and fine arts, and science programs, plus health sciences and human services program, Agriculture (with equine science programs), ABET accredited engineering technology programs, education programs, and AACSB accredited business programs, for example. About 8,300 undergraduates and 1,800 graduate students are enrolled at Murray State. This range of academic programs will be appealing to many Chinese students with whom I work.
At lunch we dined with President Randy Dunn, Provost Bonnie Higginson, Director Canales, and Vice President Carter. All of these officials were very interested in nurturing the international programs. They all travel to partner institutions and maintain strong relationships with them. This seemed to Deb and me to be an exceptionally strong commitment to internationalization of the campus and to supporting the efforts of the Institute for International Studies. Subsequently, we met Vice President of Student Affairs, Don Robertson, who was just as committed to the international programs as are the other officers. We also met the head of dining services, Richard Fritz, who enthusiastically described the adaptation of the food services to include many international cuisines prepared and seasoned properly by international students. All this bodes well for a seamless coordination of support for the international students.
In the evening, we dined with Jim and Debbie Carter and two Chinese students at an “authentic” Chinese restaurant in the center of Murray. This is significant because most Chinese people we have met are not very impressed with American Chinese restaurants. The students, who were from Qingdao University, were very enthusiastic about the restaurant’s food quality and presentation. I had Hunan chicken, which was excellent, and we all enjoyed the various dishes we ordered and shared! The students were extremely enthusiastic about Murray State, and we really enjoyed visiting with the students, whose English names are Jennifer and Corona.
After dinner, we all attended the “Mr. MSU” contest. This was a student group fund raising effort to support the Arthritis Foundation and the Juvenile Arthritis Foundation. The large Lovett Auditorium was full of enthusiastic people who were there to watch the finals of the contest, in which men students representing campus organizations appeared in formal attire and presented musical or dance performances. Many were very good! The event demonstrated a very engaged student body. This and many other events occurring it frequent intervals indicate a vibrant campus life. Here are a couple of photos from the “Mr. MSU Contest!”
On Saturday, we had a treat of going to visit Betty and Tom Holcomb. Greg Mayes drove us out to their home, which is on Kentucky Lake. Kentucky and Barkley Lakes are very large impoundments on the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River, respectively. The Holcombs and Greg were members of the Discover China delegation that visited Weihai in May. We enjoyed a visit at their beautiful home on the lake and then we took a long boat ride to a restaurant on the lake for lunch before returning to Murray.
We departed the lake in time to arrive on campus to watch the football game that began at 6:00 P.M. Murray State won the game handily, and after each score, the university mascot, a thoroughbred race horse, called Racer 1, made a fast circuit of the field. Quite exciting!
Deb and I returned to Texas on Sunday, but we had a most informative visit at Murray State, and we were very impressed. On further examination of Murray State University, we have learned the Murray State has been rated by U.S. News and World Report Magazine in the top tier of comprehensive state universities each year for past 20, and this year it is ranked 7th among such universities in the southern region of the United States. Furthermore, Forbes Magazine has ranked Murray State as one of the top 100 “best buys” among American colleges. We think that Murray State University is one very much worth considering as a place to study, and we certainly want to recommend it to international students. Here is what Murray State International students have to say about it.