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F&M Builds Bridge to Campus for Students From China

With pandemic restrictions and consular closures expected to keep first-year international students from traveling to the United States this fall, Franklin & Marshall College decided to reach, remotely, its largest cohort — students from China — with a program called F&M in Shanghai.

Associate Dean for International Programs Sue Mennicke presented the plan as a means to give the students an immediate connection with the faculty and the College while also keeping them on track to graduate in 2024.

"They'll be introduced to a lot of resources at F&M," Mennicke said. "We will have a wide range of students as well as representatives of student activities, academic resource units and support services connect with these students so that by the time they get here they'll understand how the campus works, what's available to them, and what might interest them."

In the last academic year, Chinese students represented 13 percent of the student population. In the Class of 2024, about 17 percent of the first-years are from China. This made F&M in Shanghai a critical program.

The spring announcement of the fall program reassured the students and parents.

"Students don't have to worry about getting a visa for the fall," Mennicke said.

The curriculum offered through virtual technology by F&M faculty has been designed to introduce students to the intellectual excitement and rigor of an F&M education. The program is located at the Institute for Study Abroad's Center in Shanghai, staffed with professionals to welcome students and help them get the most out of their experience, Mennicke said.

At the center, students will work on projects, interact with staff who can address their everyday needs and questions, and participate in virtual conversations with F&M faculty, staff and students in Lancaster. Faculty have designed their courses with the Shanghai group in mind.

"Students also will be introduced to the central hallmarks of a liberal arts education including critical thinking, reading and writing skills," Mennicke said.

The program can accommodate up to 65 students, and those slots filled quickly with students excited to have the opportunity to begin their F&M education on schedule without the worries of visa procurement or international travel, Mennicke said.

F&M in Shanghai not only responds to immediate student needs, but provides possible future opportunities. A faculty assessment and oversight committee has been established to examine the impact of the program, which faculty expect will produce a valuable foundation of knowledge.

"How can we learn about the ways we're able to connect with the rest of the world?" Mennicke said. "The program may provide us the opportunity to start thinking more broadly about how we work internationally."

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