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Three Chosen as Student Ambassadors to Forum for Asian Business, Government Leaders
FSU Students Given Close View of "China in Transition" Discussions
(From Profile Magazine)
Three Frostburg students, two undergraduates and one graduate student, were among just a handful of U.S. Student Ambassadors for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) China CEO Forum held in July in Beijing, through the U.S. Virtual Trade Mission Foundation.
The U.S. delegation invited three FSU students, Jason Ascher, a political science major with a minor in leadership studies; Christopher Evanoff, an MBA student who works for PharmaCare in Allegany County as the marketing representative and assistant manager for the home medical department; and Eric Paul, a business administration major with a minor in management.
APEC is an organization of 21 member nations – both developed and still developing – dedicated to supporting sustainable economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region that has become a primary vehicle for promoting open trade and practical economic cooperation in the region. Its goal is to advance Asian-Pacific economic dynamism and sense of community. The CEO Forum focused on the future of China and its role in the global economy, with a theme of “China in Transition – New Leadership, New Prospects.”
One goal of the U.S. Virtual Trade Mission Foundation is to increase the understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by the new global economy among students, and it has which has worked with APEC since 1998 to achieve that goal. The students were led by Dr. Lou E. Pelton, chief operating officer of the organization.
The overall nine-day experience for the student ambassadors consisted of three parts, visits to some of Beijing’s primary cultural sites, such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square; visits to companies in Beijing, including Caixin Media, the largest business media company in China; and the APEC CEO China Forum.
“(China) is growing at a phenomenal rate,” Evanoff said. By way of example, he described an illustration of the subway lines in China presented at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Beijing. Two years ago that type of mass transit was virtually nonexistent in many cities; today it is ballooning in size so much that it is anticipated that in two years systems should be completed in every major city.
Evanoff found the theme of China in transition particularly interesting in light of Xi Jinping’s rise to the presidency in March following Hu Jintao’s decade of leadership. The format was keynote addresses interspersed with dialogues, in which panels of business and government leaders debated a series of topics relating to the Asian-Pacific economy.
Sustainable development and the need for innovation were threads that ran through many of the topics of the keynote addresses and the panel discussions. Paul noted that the keynote speakers generally avoided creating controversy, but the dialogues took on an entirely different tone. He was impressed by the open and honest debate in which the panel members frankly challenged one another, for example, on whether innovation would simply occur as the need arose, or whether a plan needed to exist for innovation to happen.
The students also had significant opportunities to meet and speak with many of the industry leaders, some at length. Ascher said he called on every ounce of professionalism he had when he had the opportunity to speak to the industry leaders, including a 15-minute one-on-one conversation with Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide.
He knows that skill will serve him in future situations. “I’ve had real-world experience talking to real-world professionals,” he said.
The students impressed Pelton and Noel Gould, CEO and founder of the Virtual Trade Mission Foundation, according to their correspondence with FSU’s Dr. Lilly Ye, an assistant professor of marketing, who with Dr. Yan Bao, an associate professor of accounting, have spearheaded many of FSU’s efforts to expose students to the many facets of China.
Gould wrote, “These three young men were some of the best leaders-in-the-making I have had the honor of working and learning with. Each has a very good heart, a wonderful way of connecting and observing, and a keen spirit and mind for knowledge seeking.”
“Everyone is very energized by the New China Dream,” Evanoff said, as they show a desire to respect the past while growing and innovating at the same time.
A highlight for all three students was a visit with students of the Central University of Finance and Economics, considered the top university for business study in China. They were struck by how hard-working the students are, who face 12 hours of coursework each day and have been studying English since they were toddlers.
Ascher has been in classes with Chinese exchange students at Frostburg, where he has seen a similar drive and learning style, with its advantages and disadvantages. But he knows their example will stick with him the next time he does not want to do something. “I know I need to just suck it up.”
It was Paul’s second time in China, having been there the year before through the College of Business’ Impact China program, part of a summer class featuring tours of businesses and manufacturing sites for a view of Chinese way of doing business.
“I wanted to step out of my comfort zone,” Paul said. “I kind of fell in love with the place. But I never thought I would be able to go back.” Never, that is, until he heard from Ye, who encouraged him to apply for this opportunity.
The nature of this journey gave the three students more time to explore on their own, including finding their own way around Beijing and communicating with shopkeepers and taxi drivers despite language barriers. Paul even returned to the Central University of Finance and Economics and got involved in a pick-up basketball game with some of the students.
The students received financial support from the FSU Foundation and the University, but also from the U.S. Virtual Trade Mission Foundation, which was so impressed with the slate of FSU candidates for the student ambassadors that it provided enough funding to allow a third student to have this unique educational experience.
“This is the greatest classroom on the planet,” Evanoff said.
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