More than 100 former Troy University students and visiting scholars came together for an event in China earlier this month, marking the first steps toward establishing the University’s second alumni chapter there.
The June 10 event was held as University officials were in China to welcome the newest group of 1-2-1 alumni. Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor of Troy University, awarded 12 diplomas during the Sino-American Cooperation in Higher Education and Professional Development’s 15th1-2-1 commencement ceremony on June 13 in the Zhongnan Concert Hall at Shaanxi Normal University.
The alumni gathering was hosted by Silvia Li and Ruifeng Wang of Troy University’s International Programs staff and featured remarks from Dr. Hawkins; Sohail Agboatwala, associate vice chancellor for international affairs; Dr. Wenzheng Zhang, a visiting scholar from Gansu Agricultural University; and Yuxing Tao, student alumni representative and founder of TROY’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association. Dr. Huo Bao Zhu, the artist who has donated several works of art to TROY including the 200 terracotta warriors that are displayed in the Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park on the Troy Campus, was a special guest at the event.
“This event brought alumni together and served as an organizational meeting that represents the first step in chartering a new alumni chapter in China,” Agboatwala said. “The desire is there on the part of our alumni in China to connect back to the University and promote TROY to others in China. The alumni were excited to have the opportunity to reconnect with each other and the University.”
The first Chinese 1-2-1 students arrived at TROY in 2001 in partnership with the China Center for International Educational Exchange. The program enables students from partner universities in China to complete their first year of studies at their home university before spending their second and third years at TROY. The students return to their home institution to complete their studies, and upon graduation, receive diplomas from both their home university and TROY.
“In August 2001, 44 students from China arrived in TROY as the first 1-2-1 class in history,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., Chancellor. “The arrival of 1-2-1 students on our campus transformed the culture of TROY, as we transitioned from a regional university to a global institution. These students immediately became an integral part of campus life at TROY, as they began to share their culture with classmates from the U.S.”
In 2004, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) became the official co-sponsor of the program and began to invite other U.S. institutions to join the program.
“Today, 1-2-1 is the largest exchange program of its kind,” Dr. Hawkins said. “It includes 122 Chinese universities and 35 universities from the United States. Over 4,000 students from China have participated, and approximately 2,500 have graduated, including the members of this most recent class.”
The impact of the commencement ceremony and the alumni gathering is another example of the type of international outreach that has earned TROY the reputation as Alabama’s international university. The University serves more than 1,000 international students annually on its Troy Campus. Partly fueled by participation within the 1-2-1 program, China represents TROY’s largest international student enrollment.
“Life is about relationships,” Dr. Hawkins said. “The secret to the success of 1-2-1 lies in the strong relationships that were built and are being built with international partners. Maintaining relationships and building those connections between the graduates of this program and TROY is truly important.
During the commencement ceremonies, TROY and Shaanxi Normal University graduate Xiao Xixi spoke on behalf of the new class of 1-2-1 graduates. A former professional diving athlete, Xixi was recruited into the diving program at age 7, and was a part of the Chinese diving team for 10 years before retiring to attend college. She began her college career as an athletic training major, but found and pursued her true passion – theatre and performing arts — thanks to the 1-2-1 program and her time at TROY.
“Before I started diving training, I used to participate in different kinds of art classes, such as violin, drawing and dancing, and I loved them tremendously,” she said. “I literally did not know anything about theatre when I began my new major at Troy University.”
Transitioning to a new major in a new country was not without its frustrations and challenges, but Xixi drew on her passion for her dream to grow and overcome those hardships.
“I felt extremely frustrated and even questioned if I had the potential to perform onstage,” she said. “A voice from the bottom of my heart and deep in my soul said ‘this is what you really want and what you have been dreaming for a long time. Don’t give up.’”
Xixi said being a part of the 1-2-1 program and studying at TROY has had a tremendous impact on her life.
“I feel that I have grown tremendously,” she said. “I have learned to think more independently and my confidence has been enhanced greatly by all the experience I have been given through studying in the United States. I have been taught to try various new things, to respect different cultures and enjoy what I have in my life right now. Most significantly, I have learned that you are never too old to turn your dream into action, as long as you don’t let those so-called limitations and rules stop you from pursuing your dream.”