A long-distance honor

CSB and SJU professor receives honor from Chinese university

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October 26, 2010

By Mike Killeen

Induction ceremony naming Henry Jakubowski a visiting professor at Southwest University in China.

Henry Jakubowski has made seven trips to Southwest University in China since 1997. Each time, he has gone as a professor of chemistry at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University to promote and enhance an academic relationship between the schools.

But the next time he visits the Chinese university, he'll have a new title. Henry was named a visiting professor of chemistry at Southwest, which is located in Beibei, China.

"I was just stunned and really deeply honored by this recognition," Henry said.

Henry, 57, plans to continue teaching at CSB and SJU until his retirement. But he anticipates making a trip or two to China with CSB and SJU groups before his retirement, and "I do see myself going back (to China) to teach part-time during my retirement."

Southwest and CSB and SJU are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their relationship this year. That relationship has included faculty and student exchanges and study abroad programs.

Henry started the Summer Science Exchange Program - now known as the Summer Exchange Program - in 2006. It is a reciprocal exchange of students, with students from CSB and SJU traveling to China, where they are matched with a Chinese student research partner for six weeks. That research partnership continues when the Chinese students visit Minnesota to work with their CSB and SJU peers for another six weeks.

"This honor from Southwest is a testament to Henry's remarkable contribution to the relationship between Southwest and CSB and SJU," said Joe Rogers, director of the Center for Global Education at CSB and SJU. "Henry served as director for two semester-long programs and did an outstanding job.

"What's truly amazing is that he recognized during these experiences that natural science majors did not always have the same opportunity as other students to study abroad, and so he partnered with colleagues at Southwest to design our innovative summer research exchange program. Henry has always been motivated by the desire to increase educational opportunities for our students," Joe said.

"CSB and SJU are deeply indebted to Henry Jakubowski for pioneering one of America's first liberal arts college science-based research exchange programs with China," said P. Richard Bohr, professor of history at CSB and SJU and director of the schools' Asian Studies Program. "Through the years, he has expanded this program to also encompass humanities, fine arts and social sciences exchange with Southwest University."

In May, Henry and other CSB and SJU faculty members visited Southwest to further expand the program. Near the end of the stay, Henry had dinner with members of Southwest's Office of International Exchanges and Cooperation.

"They said that Song Naiqing - the former president of Southwest who is now the vice chancellor of the institution - wanted to stop by my apartment to see me," Henry recalled. "We have a good relationship. I've met with him many times. It was really quite an honor for me that he wanted to come to my apartment to greet me.

"We chatted for about an hour. I mentioned how fondly I thought of Southwest," Henry said. "I suggested that someday, when I retire, I would like to potentially teach there. I have taught biochemistry at Southwest to undergraduate and graduate students. He (Naiqing) said, 'We're just going to make you a visiting professor of chemistry and chemical engineering.' They fast-forwarded the process so that I would have an induction ceremony the day we left campus (May 24).

"It was really a high honor for me, to tell you the truth, because it recognizes the enormous amount of time I have spent developing opportunities for both Southwest and our students," Henry said.

Henry sees his appointment as a strengthening of the relationship between the schools.

"Frankly, we (the institutions) are different. Southwest has 50,000-plus students. It offers both Ph.D.'s and master's degrees. We are much smaller but we bring a lot to the relationship," Henry said. "I think it's a sign that our relationship is vital and still growing."

Richard said that due to the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant which was received in 2009, CSB and SJU are implementing exchange programs in Japan and India.

"What Henry built has now become a pillar of our new Asian Studies major and is being replicated by other U.S. colleges," Richard said.