Benedict Sends First Students for Academic Semester in China

On Saturday, January 24th, three Benedict College students, Jonovia Myers and Shinae Meylor, sophomores majoring in Psychology, and Sanqual Sampson, sophomore majoring in Early Childhood Education, will leave for China accompanied by Dr. Norma Lozano Jackson, Director of International Programs (OIP), for a full semester of study at Yibin University in the Sichuan Province of China.

The students are the first to participate in a full semester of study at Yibin University, after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in June of 2007 between the two educational institutions. In addition to the full course of study, the Benedict students will engage in cultural activities and sightseeing; they will visit the Great Wall in Beijing, the Panda Forest in Sichuan Province, Buddhist and Taoist temples, among other sites. Upon return to Benedict, the three students will present their research and findings to the faculty and student body at Benedict College.

"This is my first time getting on a plane, and I am a little nervous, but at the same time very excited as I feel that it is important to venture out of my comfort zone here at home and experience other cultures, especially that of China, the most populous country in the world," said participant Jonovia Myers. She added, "China has a lot to offer, and I intend to take full advantage of this incredible opportunity. I think that this experience will give me first-hand knowledge of a part of the world unknown to me. Upon my return, I will share my experiences and knowledge with my peers, faculty and staff at Benedict."

"I am very thankful to Dr. David Swinton and Dr. Norma Jackson for arranging this exchange, said Sanqual Sampson. It is great to go abroad for a full semester and be able to use all the courses toward your major. I will be glad to immerse myself in the language and culture of China. My family supports me 100%, and I know I will return a different person."

Culminating more than a year’s advance work, two Chinese faculty of mathematics and finance from the Yibin University spent the 2008 fall semester at Benedict studying English, lecturing and tutoring in their respective disciplines. The two faculty members, selected by Yibin University, came to Benedict College to improve their English, to assist them in the preparation of courses to be taught in English at Yibin University and to develop a better appreciation of Benedict’s academic and social environment. Their visit represents the inauguration of the Benedict Exchange, which involves not only the two colleges, but a sister city relationship between Columbia, SC and Yibin, China as well. Two more Yibin faculty members are expected for the 2009 spring semester, and during the summer of 2009, three Benedict faculty will be lecturing at Yibin University.

Through the Office of International Programs (OIP), Benedict College students have participated in academic and cultural experiences in Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Italy, Ghana, Spain, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Monaco and Italy, among other countries.

In addition to the exchange programs developed by the OIP with universities in Ghana, South Africa, Colombia, and China, the OIP has a Distinguished Visitors Series, where invited international faculty and heads-of-state present their latest research and policy initiatives. Some of the guests have included: Dr. David Kenneth Kaunda, former president of the Republic of Zambia, Dr. John Evans Atta Mills, recently elected president of the Republic of Ghana, Japan’s consul general, Toshinao Urabe, among many others. This year, during Black History Month, the OIP will be hosting the visit of her Excellency, Hajiya Turai Umaru Yar’ Adua, the First Lady of Nigeria and the Governor of the Niger Delta, among other prominent political figures and business leaders who will accompany.

According to Dr. Jackson, "although much of contemporary U.S. education focuses on passing standardized tests and vocational education—a homogenization of learning—as an Historically Black College, Benedict College attempts to educationally lift up those whom many have debased and to encourage its students to value the languages and histories of other cultures just as they wish their own languages and histories to be valued. "