FOSHAN CITY, China — Middle Tennessee State University signed a pact to become the first American university to establish formal ties with an institute in China’s leading design center for household appliances and technology.
The agreement with the Research Institute of Industrial Design was secured during a two-day visit by an MTSU delegation to the Shunde District in China’s Guangdong Province. MTSU’s visit to Guangdong concluded Monday.
The pact signed by MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Xu Xuyan, deputy director of the Education Bureau of Shunde District, allows the university to develop an exchange program for students to work with the institute. It also allows joint research, giving MTSU a potential outlet to participate in Shunde-based projects.
Shunde, once a traditional agricultural county, has been transformed into a modern industrial complex. Dubbed the “Capital of Home Appliances of the World,” it is a leader in the production of electric fans, cookers, microwave ovens and other household appliances. It is also one of the world’s largest producers of furniture.
“We will look at our resources and expertise at MTSU, then identify the areas where we can help you,” McPhee told Xu. “We would like to partner with the Industrial Design City, with our students having a experience similar to internships.
“Our students can relate to you what our market wants and needs and how to capture consumer attention,” he said. “And you can help them understand the market forces outside of the United States.”
The agreement was forged at one of the stops of a seven-city tour by the MTSU delegation to create or strengthen relationships with Chinese institutions. McPhee and state Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, a 1976 graduate of MTSU, are leading the delegation.
The agreement was reached after a round of final negotiations at the office of Totin Worldwide Commercial Co. in the Guangdong Base of Industrial Design.
Ketron, who represents District 13 in the state Senate, said the relationship could help innovations developed by MTSU faculty and students reach a global audience.
“In Tennessee, we often miss the link between having the idea and getting to market,” he said. “We must get good ideas to market faster and start putting things on the shelf for sale. That’s how we generate money for our economy.”
Xu described the deal as “very important for our area.”
“Your students can do projects and bring ideas to our industries,” he said. “I think it’s a win-win choice.”
McPhee and the delegation toured innovations on display at the offices of Totin and an exhibition at the Base of Industrial Design – including a prototype apartment for the elderly with specially geared kitchen, bathroom and living room appliances.
The delegation’s trip to Guangdong Province also included meetings with officials of the CIBT International College at Guangzhou University, where MTSU hopes to establish formal ties later this year. McPhee also lectured to Guangzhou students about study-abroad opportunities at MTSU.