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Rick Carter accepts a gift from the president of Leshan Normal University.
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The Illinois Higher Education Trade Mission delegates at Leshan No. 1 High School
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Dr. Carter meets with kindergarten students during the delegation's school visits.
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WIU Participates in Higher Ed Trade Mission to China

March 28, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- The passport of Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, is getting quite a workout these days. Carter recently returned from a 15-day State of Illinois-sponsored Higher Education Trade Mission to China during which Carter, and representatives from seven other Illinois colleges and universities, met with government and education officials and prospective students. Western was one of three Illinois public universities to participate in the recent state venture.

Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the trade mission was organized by the State of Illinois' China Office and Beijing Overseas-Study Service Association. The focus of the program is to promote Illinois' education resources and build a platform for educational partnerships. Participants visited six cities during the 15-day journey.

"Illinois is the first state in the union to promote higher education as a service export," explained Zhigang Ren, senior international trade specialist for the DCEO Office of Trade and Investment. "The goal is to create and retain jobs for Illinois. International educational generated $1 billion in 2011 for Illinois and its multiplier effect is even bigger for the Illinois economy."

According to Carter, Western accepted DCEO's invitation to participate because the program aligned with the University's goal to increase the number of international students who select Western as their college of choice, as well as to enhance WIU's study abroad, internship and academic cohort opportunities.
"We were honored to be invited to participate in the state's higher education trade mission to China," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "Building long-term relationships with education and government officials abroad is central to meeting our goal to further internationalize Western Illinois University. I commend Dr. Carter for his pioneering efforts abroad."

While Carter participated in the state's program, he traveled to China prior to the March 1 start date to meet with established contacts from previous visits.

"In 15 days, I visited 11 high schools, presented information to more than 1,100 high school students, visited four universities and attended six Chinese government meetings. It was a very busy, but incredibly rewarding, trip," he noted.

As a result of Carter's recent trek to China, there is the possibility that approximately 20 students from Shanghai Donghai Vocational Technical College will arrive on WIU's Macomb campus in August 2014 to begin taking classes in Western's English as a Second Language (WESL) program before matriculating into a WIU degree program. The partnership between WIU and Shanghai Donghai College began last year when Nolan Zuo accepted an invitation to serve as a visiting scholar at Western during the 2012-2013 academic year. Zuo is wrapping up his research on the Macomb campus, and Shanghai Donghai President Xiang Jiaxiang will visit in May to tour Western's campuses and visit with University officials.

In addition to Carter's March 2013 trip, Carter and Thomas visited with China Embassy officials during a three-day visit to Washington, D.C., during the Fall 2012 semester, and the men spent 10 days on a recruiting trip to China in June 2012. As a result of the summer venture, seven students from China began their WESL studies in August 2012 and three additional students arrived in January. Also, five WIU students recently studied in China as part of the educational partnerships between WIU, Caterpillar and Chinese universities, and a study abroad partnership beginning this summer has been established with Shanghai International Studies University.

"By participating in these programs, and by visiting embassies and educational institutions and organizations abroad, we extend Western Illinois University's reach far beyond Illinois' borders," Carter added. "We have so much to offer students from other countries, and these countries have so much they can provide to our campus community. I'm excited about the many possibilities for exchange and study abroad programs."

In February 2013, 10 high-achieving high school students from Thailand arrived on the Macomb campus as part of the "One District, One Scholar" program, which is sponsored by their government, the Kingdom of Thailand. The program provides the opportunity for each of the 10 Thai Scholars to earn their undergraduate degrees at WIU over the next few years.
Besides establishing partnerships with Thailand and China, Carter has established a solid relationship with the ambassador of Botswana. And before his passport gets a chance to "cool off," Carter will take to the air again in mid-April as he travels to Botswana to visit with Her Excellency Tebelelo Seretse. In turn, Her Excellency will visit the Macomb campus in late April. Carter is also working with Brazilian officials to bring more students from that country to Western as part of Brazil's Science Without Borders program, which has a goal of sending 100,000 students to the U.S. to attend college.

"We are committed to providing international students with the support needed to have a successful college experience," Thomas added.

For more information on Western's Center for International Studies, including WESL and study abroad programs, visit

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations