A shipment of 10,000 masks arrived Thursday, April 30, 2020, the boxes scribed with messages of solidarity and friendship alongside a panda graphic—Sichuan’s provincial icon and a traditional symbol of peace and good luck.
“We are very grateful for this act of generosity and friendship by the Sichuan Provincial Forestry and Grassland Bureau,” said Ruth V. Watkins, president of the University of Utah. “It underscores the long-term partnership the university and the Sichuan province have developed to train national park administrators in best practices. It also signals what I hope will be an ongoing collaboration. We want the people in Sichuan province to know their gift is deeply appreciated.”
The state of Utah and the U both maintain long-held collaborative relationships with China. The U is in its second year of training Chinese land management officials, including staff with Sichuan Forestry and Grassland Bureau, to support China as the country launches its first national parks program. Over the past four years, the U has also trained hundreds of athletic coaches from across China through its Pac-12 China Coaches Training Program.
As recently as October 2019, representatives from the Office for Global Engagement at the U traveled to China carrying a formal declaration of friendship from Gov. Gary Herbert to participate in a formal Friendship Celebration, symbolizing the warm relationship between the state of Utah and Sichuan.
This type of long-term collaboration has initiated close personal relationships and, as COVID-19 has challenged countries across the globe, Sichuan leaders sought out ways to support their friends in Utah.
“This is truly about people helping people and it’s the result of long-standing relationships. We are very grateful,” said Franz Kolb, director for international trade and diplomacy with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
The masks will be used to protect health care providers, patients and visitors to the U’s health care facilities.
The University of Utah’s Office for Global Engagement plays a key role in generating and maintaining relationships across the globe. The office provides leadership, infrastructure and best practices in support of University of Utah global initiatives. The mission is to serve as a hub for cross-cultural education, outreach and scholarship.
Last fall, 17 administrators from Sichuan Forestry and Grassland Bureau attended the U’s second China National Parks training program. This multidisciplinary course organized by the Office for Global Engagement and the Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, was designed to assist the building and management of a new parks program through education of best practices honed in the United States over the past 150 years.
Since 2016, university coaches from all over China, including Sichuan province, have participated in the China Coaches Training Program. The educational program teaches coaching techniques for men and women’s sports including basketball, track and field, swimming and cheerleading.