By Diane Gasper-O’Brien
HAYS, Kan. — Two of her favorite times of the school year are the days leading up to the start of class in the fall and graduation time.
Dr. Mirta M. Martin, president of Fort Hays State University, had plenty of opportunity to celebrate the latter several times over the past several weeks.
Following a dual graduation at FHSU the weekend of May 15-16, Martin took off for a two-week trip to China with an FHSU contingent of six.
Two major items on their agenda was participating in graduations at universities with which FHSU has major partnerships in China — Shenyang Normal University, Shenyang, and Sias International University School, Xinzheng.
Graduates received diplomas from their Chinese university as well as from Fort Hays State.
“Before classes start, there’s the move in, the energy, the enthusiasm, the stars in the eyes of these students and their parents of their child going to college,” Martin said. “Then at commencement, it’s a symbol of lots of hard work and sacrifices.”
In addition to the graduation ceremonies, Martin also signed three new agreements with Chinese universities. New framework agreements were signed with two institutions in the Gansu Provice — Lanzhou University of Arts and Sciences in Lanzhou and Hexi University in Zhangye — as well as another agreement with Shenyang Normal University.
“This was a working trip, very much so, for all of us,” Martin said.
Two newcomers to FHSU made the trip: Provost Graham Glynn, who will begin full time at FHSU July 1, and Joy Hatch, vice president for technology who came to Fort Hays State last semester.
Martin said it was an especially productive trip for Hatch.
“We need to understand what are the areas where we have the opportunity to improve the delivery of our programs,” Martin said. “So she dealt with technology issues there.”
DeBra Prideaux, executive director for alumni and governmental relations, also was among the FHSU group.
“After 10 years of doing business there, we need to have an alumni association,” Martin said. “So DeBra went along to sow the seeds to begin an alumni association.”
Zoe-Anne Newton, incoming vice chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, was also a member of the group.
“She understands our position in China,” Martin said, “and she will be able to be an advocate for excellence in curriculum.”
Also making the trip were Cindy Elliott, assistant provost for Strategic Partnerships at FHSU, and Jimmy Chen, assistant to Sias President Shawn Chen. Jimmy Chen recently received his master’s degree from Fort Hays State on the Hays campus.
Martin said it was an enlightening experience to witness the reactions of the Chinese graduates.
“Students are students, regardless of whether they are in Hays, America or Sias University in China,” Martin said. “It was really neat to see them in China, jumping for joy to have that American degree.”
Martin said she enjoyed the small size of the FHSU group.
“The friendships with which we started turned into a close family relationship. For all of us, it was a trip where we learned a lot from each other and a lot from those we met. We saw great potential for the future.”