Championing the attributes of HBU and finding students who fit well with the University were the goals of the Houston Baptist University China Delegation which went to China last fall. The delegation visited schools and met with key leaders in the far eastern cities of Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai. Shannon Bedo, director of International Student Services, Dr. David Hao, dean of the Department of Student Success & Advising, Dr. Jason Lester, dean of the School of Fine Arts, and Ed Borges, senior director of Special Projects, comprised the group.
HBU students and alumni hail from all across the globe. The University offers, in a sense, the best of both worlds to students of many backgrounds. They can reside in a diverse city and among a population of fellow international students. At the same time, they enjoy a learning community in which faculty and staff help make sure no one is lost in the obscurity of a crowd.
Thanks in part to an increased outreach effort, HBU has seen a 30 percent growth in its international student population during the past two years. “HBU is attractive to international students because they feel welcome,” Bedo said. “Our smaller school allows for a high-care environment, and I encourage students to be part of groups like the International Student Organization.”
Uniquely, HBU has the same scholarship opportunities for American and international students alike. Furthermore, HBU offers many of the programs and majors that international students find appealing, all in a receptive campus environment.
Typical Chinese students know from an early age if they will compete for a place in a university in China, Borges said. Grade school students can expect to have limited options when it comes to gaining admission to Chinese universities.
“Part of the conversation about college for many Chinese families now is going abroad to study,” Borges said. “We knew that, in order to be part of that conversation, we needed to go there and start making and cultivating relationships. Our dream is to have a bridge created where we can start being a viable option for many Chinese students.” Not only do students find a hospitable place at HBU, they are only miles from Houston’s own two Chinatowns, Borges noted.
Throughout their visit, the group focused upon international schools and international baccalaureate schools which help prepare their students for English proficiency and for study abroad opportunities. The delegation observed that students everywhere have more commonalities than differences, Borges said. “We were literally on the other side of the world, but the high school students have the same wants and needs and interests as students at home,” he said.
Lester built upon purposeful connections made during a previous trip to China just a few months before, and perceived an increased interest in arts education. “Our desire is to help these students; we want a relationship that is mutually beneficial to the students and to HBU,” Lester said. “We offer an excellent education with a worldview that’s distinctly Christian.”
For Hao, the trip was especially meaningful. “I was born in Harbin, China, and though I have visited China multiple times for personal reasons, this was the first time I went for a business purpose,” he said. “This recruiting trip was something we had been dreaming about for a few years. Because we’re located in Houston, we are uniquely poised to attract students due to the multitude of opportunities afforded by our international city. We can give students a great education, and we have the ability to share Christ.”
Although China has not historically offered warm receptions to Christian organizations, perhaps that is changing. “Many are familiar with Christianity, and are increasingly open to their children attending a religiously affiliated school,” Hao said. “We found that many of the parents have a great amount of respect for Christians because of our values; even the government is beginning to take a new approach toward faith in general. During this trip, we heard from students and parents about finding purpose in their education and careers, rather than just obtaining a degree for a job. That was usually not part of the discussion in the past, and reflects a shift in both thought process and economic opportunity.”
In addition to visiting schools, the group met with a representative of EducationUSA in the American Embassy, went to a church, and took in iconic sites like the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square.
“We had a tremendous team in which each of us brought contacts and abilities to the table,” Lester said. “We want to stay in touch with the new friends of the University, and look forward to future opportunities to strengthen these friendships.”
Visit HBU International for more information about International Admissions.