November 15, 2005
The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University are celebrating a 20th anniversary this year. But instead of receiving china as a gift, Saint Benedict and Saint John’s are celebrating their 20th anniversary in China, strengthening their relationship with Southwest University.
Southwest University was formerly two different schools – Southwest China Normal University (the original partner of CSB/SJU), and Southwest China Agricultural University. The two Chinese schools – whose campuses were located next to each other in the city of Beibei in the Sichuan Province in China – merged in July 2005 to become Southwest University.
MaryAnn Baenninger, president of CSB, and Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, president of SJU, visited the school in November, 2005.
While there, the presidents formalized a proposal to exchange science students. CSB/SJU science majors from the biology, chemistry and/or physics departments will conduct research with an undergraduate partner student from the corresponding department at Southwest University, under the direction of a professor from the Chinese school, for a six-week period in May and June. The Southwest University students and their CSB/SJU partners will then travel to CSB/SJU and do research for six weeks in July and August under the direction of a professor from CSB/SJU. The schools plan to begin the program in 2006.
The relationship between CSB/SJU and Southwest Normal began with S. Baulu Kuan, OSB, visiting Southwest Normal in the early 1980s. S. Baulu chose the site because of the beauty of the campus and the famous art department there. She also believed that its rural setting (45 miles from Chongqing, one of the world’s largest municipalities and a major industrial and manufacturing center) was not unlike CSB/SJU’s location (70 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul).
In 1984, S. Baulu brought Academic Dean Robert Spaeth and Vice President Charles Villette to China with her. Southwest Normal officials presented Spaeth and Villette a contract to establish formal relations and exchanges.
The contract, which was signed in 1986, provided for faculty and student exchanges. CSB/SJU has sent an average of two or more recent graduates to Southwest Normal every year to teach English. In addition, many CSB/SJU faculty have also served as visiting scholars and taught courses to Chinese students.
Over 300 CSB/SJU students have participated in the semester-long study abroad program at Southwest Normal and another 100 students have participated in month-long study abroad trips.
CSB/SJU has hosted at least three Presidential delegations from Southwest Normal.
In May 2005, Presidents Baenninger and Reinhart, as well as President Song Naiqing, signed a new five-year agreement to continue exchanges and cooperation between the schools. An updated version of the May 2005 agreement was signed during the presidents’ recent visit to Southwest University.