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Anna Zhang, sixth from the left, stands with her classmates in Southwest Jiaotong University. Anna is part of the first graduating class through a collaborative education agreement between OSU's Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology program and SWJTU.

2021 international cohort graduate visits OSU campus for first time

Friday, April 15, 2022

Media Contact: Kristi Wheeler | Manager, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-5831 |

Unlike most students, Spring 2021 cohort graduate Zilin Zhang spent her spring break visiting Oklahoma State University. Anna, as she prefers to go by stateside, jumped at the chance to meet her former professors and advisors face-to-face for the first time. 

Zhang attained a fire protection and safety engineering technology (FPSET) degree through a collaborative education agreement between OSU and Southwest Jiaotong University (SWJTU). The program allows students to study for three years in China and one year in the U.S. However, because of COVID-19, the 2017 cohort class had to complete the final year of the program virtually.

Zhang was raised in the eastern part of China and moved to the U.S. in August 2021 to attend graduate school at the University of Maryland. 

“I had to adjust to the food, environment and also the language,” Zhang said. “Right when I arrived I also had to figure out a bank card, phone number and all of those kinds of things.”

Her interest in FPSET developed after her dad introduced her to the field. During the first round of the admissions process in China, her dad was recovering from an injury. While he was at home resting, he took the time to look into universities and programs he believed were suitable for Zhang. 

“I did the second round, and I saw all of the documents for each program,” Zhang said. “When I saw FPSET, I was like this program is special because there are not a lot of universities that have fire protection.”

Dr. Virginia Charter, a professor in FPSET, said the program has given OSU the opportunity to make a global impact in the world of fire protection and safety.

Dr. Bryan Hoskins visits with Anna in the FPSET lab.
During Anna's visit to campus, she got to meet her instructor and advisor Dr. Bryan Hoskins while touring the FPSET labs for the first time.

“It has been exciting to work with these students. The pandemic has added challenges, but both the faculty and students have persevered through them," Charter said.

While finishing her degree online with OSU, Zhang completed her senior project on evacuation. Her project inspired her to continue the evacuation career path in graduate school. Getting to meet her advisor for the project was something she was really looking forward to. 

“I was looking forward to meeting all of my professors, but I was most excited about meeting Dr. Hoskins,” Zhang said. 

“Anna was on the senior project team that I advised and she took on a leadership role within her team,” Dr. Bryan Hoskins said. “She wanted to understand the project and get meaningful results, not just do the minimum of what was expected.”

During her visit, Zhang toured campus, got hands-on experience in the labs, attended her past courses in person, met with her professors and even bought souvenirs for her friends back home. She is the first of her former classmates to visit the OSU campus.

“I was really excited to meet Anna in person,” Charter said. “It was tough never being able to meet the students in person due to the pandemic. I was glad to be able to show her around the lab and for her to get an idea of what it would have been like to be a student on campus. I am also proud of her accomplishments and knowing that she got some of her start here with faculty at OSU.”

Hoskins said it was disappointing that the cohort couldn't come to campus as planned, but understandable because of the pandemic.

“Transition to an online environment was a challenge for everyone, but this cohort was fantastic about making that transition," Hoskins said. "The students regularly came to office hours to make sure that they were understanding the material and excelled in the class that I taught for them. They were all some of the better students that I have had the privilege of working with at OSU."

Dr. Charter, Dr. Hosking and Anna Zhang show OSU spirit at the FPSET lab.
From left: Dr. Virginia Charter, Anna Zhang and Dr. Bryan Hoskins show their OSU spirit in the FPSET lab.

Touring campus and the different facilities OSU has to offer allowed Zhang to picture herself getting the in-person experience at OSU her senior year, not just spending time in class, but sharing her hobbies of cooking and tennis with her peers as well. 

“The student area here is very concentrated; like classrooms and dorms are close to each other,” Zhang said. “It would've been nice if I could’ve spent some time here one year with my classmates. Cooking together and doing some sports in the gym would’ve been great."

Zhang’s experience with OSU, SWJTU and Maryland have encouraged her to stay in the academic field to possibly further her education and become an educator in the future. 

“I want to stay in the academic area as long as possible, so that’s one of the reasons I want to continue with my doctorate,” Zhang said. “Maybe one day I can become a professor at a university or I can find a job working in FPSET at a company.” 

While Zhang wishes she could’ve had the in-person experience her senior year, she feels fortunate to spend her spring break visiting her alma mater for the first time.

“I was not able to come here during my senior year, but luckily I’m here now,” Zhang said. “I will always prefer the in-person experience at school because it’s a completely different environment.”

Hoskins said he thinks Zhang will have a great career in FPSET.

“She definitely has an unlimited future in fire protection and will be able to achieve anything that she puts her mind to,” Hoskins said. "I am very glad that I was able to meet her in person and show her around the lab.”

Story By: Bailey Sisk |

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