Benedictine University President Michael S. Brophy, Ph.D., M.F.A., came away from a recent visit to Asia with a better understanding of how the University is providing quality, values-based graduate programs that are helping to fuel an economic renaissance in one country and may eventually provide better public health in another.
Brophy visited Benedictine partner schools Dalian Medical University, Shenyang Jianzhu University and Shenyang University of Technology in China and Binh Duong University and Vietnam National University in Vietnam, and met with school leaders, staff, students and alumni.
Benedictine offers Master of Business Administration degrees at Shenyang University of Technology, Binh Duong University and Vietnam National University, a Master of Science in Management Information Systems at Shenyang Jianzhu University, and a Master of Public Health degree at Dalian Medical University.
His visit to Dalian came on the heels of a visit to that school by representatives of the Higher Learning Commission.
“The trip helped me understand why we are in Asia,” said Brophy, who became the University’s 11th president in August 2015 and is still acquainting himself with many of Benedictine’s programs and partnerships. “It was an affirmation. The faculty, staff and administration can all feel very proud of what we do there.”
Although there are no immediate plans for extensive expansion in the Asia markets, the University will begin offering a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Linguistics in Vietnam under the leadership of Sandra Gollin Kies, Ph.D., associate professor of Linguistics at Benedictine, either during the summer or fall of 2016.
The M.A. in Linguistics program provides students with both practical and theoretical instruction in applied linguistics, including preparation to teach in a range of contexts. The program includes a concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
“We will take a slower pace in Asia during my tenure,” Brophy said. “I want to make sure whatever we do meets accreditation standards and fulfills a need. That is the most important thing. There are always going to be opportunities, and the M.A. in Linguistics was one we felt made sense at this time.”
Benedictine is exploring the expansion of its Public Health and possibly the Master of Science in Nutrition and Wellness programs in China. That country relaxed its one-child policy in 2015 because its population had shifted toward one that has too many men, too many elderly and too few youth entering the workforce to support its aging population.
That demographic shift has created significant public health and policy issues for Chinese officials.
“Our Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Nutrition and Wellness programs are in demand,” Brophy said. “Diets have changed a lot in the last 40 years, even in China. So they are very interested in nutrition. They are also interested in nursing. But as their economy has changed, we hear they are approving fewer and fewer new programs.
“Nevertheless, the great gift that Dr. Carroll gave us is that we were in China relatively early and we have a good stature there,” he added, talking about the pioneering efforts by President Emeritus William J. Carroll, Ph.D., to offer Benedictine’s graduate business programs in Asia.
Meanwhile, the demographic landscape is very different in Vietnam.
“There are 94 million people in Vietnam and the median age of the population is 30,” Brophy said. “Their economy was roaring until about 2011 and then they hit a wall, for different reasons, but they want to be well-positioned for the new trade pact, the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. In Vietnam, they want to do more with higher education, especially with business.”
Benedictine has been offering M.B.A. programs in Vietnam since 2008 and has more than 400 alumni. Brophy also expects the Linguistics program to be very popular there.
“Vietnam wants American-brand M.B.A. studies,” he said. “They are trying to figure out how they fit into the world economy. Vietnam has been very agricultural-based. Vietnam is the No. 2 coffee producer in the world and is the fourth-largest textile exporter. It is, like many countries, looking to make that transition to the service industry, intellectual property and technology.”
The University is able to deliver its business programs in both China and Vietnam for less than $10,000 per student, a rate consistent with the scale of their economies and the circumstances of their populations, Brophy said.
“It is still not a small sum,” Brophy said. “When I went there, I met working white-collar professionals who are paying for the programs themselves, and $10,000 is a significant investment. But I think getting in early, pricing right and now establishing our reputation, the programs are all going in the right direction.
“I better understand the merits, opportunities and certainly some of the challenges of our programs in Asia,” he added.
Meanwhile, Brophy wants to push for more domestic students to study abroad in Asia and to bring more full-time students from Asia to the Benedictine campus in Lisle.
“We need to continue to work on expanding study abroad opportunities for our Lisle-based undergraduates so they can grow their travel and learning experiences,” he said. “In reverse, we need to increase the number of Chinese and Vietnamese students coming to Lisle to further expand our international student base. It really has not happened to any great extent beyond the English as a Second Language program.
“So we have some miles to go on that topic, which is good, because there is nowhere to go but up,” he added.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, and the University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area.