Final preparations are taking place throughout campus for the arrival of 17 students from Shanghai, China on Friday evening, June 21. This is the first of three different cohorts from the same university scheduled to arrive throughout the summer.

The students, all Rehab Science majors from Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College in Shanghai, China, will spend their summer improving their English and becoming immersed in American culture before they begin their Concordia classroom experience in the fall.

The students’ summer immersion experience will be coordinated by Concordia’s English Language Institute, a signature program of Concordia’s International Center. Through a combination of English instruction and immersion activities, International students, many of whom have never been to the United States before, are able to intensify their English studies to be prepared for success in their academic courses.

While the Institute has been going strong for a number of years, this is the first time that a specialized curriculum has been implemented for a specific university.

The Chinese students are the first class of a joint undergraduate degree program between Concordia University Wisconsin and Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College that was announced in 2016. This was the first program of its kind to be approved by the Ministry of Education in China. Upon completion, students will have acquired the necessary training and knowledge for a career in the human services field, treating not only the physical body, but delivering the best possible care to the whole person.

Before they enter the classroom, they must first prove competency in English.

“I see a lot of similarities between the United States and China; particularly in the Midwest,” says Dan Wagner, director of the Summer Global Engagement Institute. “Both cultures value family and a strong community.”

Wagner’s goal for the institute is two-fold: Prepare the students from China to speak, write, and read English effectively to be ready for the classroom in the fall, and, help to foster a culture at Concordia that fully embraces global diversity.

In order to make that goal a realty, Wagner explains that both sides must be actively engaged in the process. He is pleased to note that every student from Shanghai will room with an American student. Concordia students volunteered to be roommates and to help them assimilate into the campus community.

Wagner has a passion for bridging gaps between cultures. Prior to joining Concordia, he built a similar program at his Alma mater, Valparaiso University.  He is also fluent in Mandarin, and lived in China two different times serving in teaching capacities. In addition to the Chinese students, Wagner will also host groups from Japan, Korea, and Uruguay over the summer.

For more information, contact Dan Wagner at



— Lisa Liljegren is vice president of marketing and strategic communications.

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