Northern Arizona University celebrated two commencements this year. One was the traditional graduation in May on the Flagstaff campus, and the second was 7,000 miles away in Kunming, China.
NAU Provost Liz Grobsmith traveled to Yunnan University in Kunming in June to confer degrees on the first five Chinese students to graduate from a joint 1+2+1 program between NAU and several Chinese universities.
Students in the 1+2+1 program attended their home university in China their first year, then studied at NAU for two years, and completed their final year at their Chinese university. The students received dual degrees from NAU and their home university. The program is sponsored by the China Center for International Educational Exchange and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
“This event was extremely significant in that it represents our first dual degree partnership internationally,” Grobsmith said. “We are equally educating the students, sharing in their general education and major programs of study, and preparing them for life and work in a global society.”
Harvey Charles, vice provost of NAU’s Center for International Education, sees potential for expanding programs in China.
“The 1+2+1 program has provided us with an ideal springboard to establish strong ties with Chinese institutions. Most of these institutions have come to know NAU as a reputable university with high academic standards and outstanding programs in many of the areas for which there is a demand among their students,” Charles said.
This fall, NAU expects to enroll 10 students from Beijing International Studies University in dual degree 2+2 programs and to initiate a dual degree program in Teaching English as a Second Language. Plans also are in the works to establish a dual MBA program with a university in Hong Kong.
NAU expects a total of 40 Chinese students in fall 2008.
“China has become a natural partner since they want so much to have their students learn in an English-speaking environment and also have the kind of intellectual challenge that American universities provide,” Grobsmith said.
In addition to the degree programs, Charles said he also anticipates strong and lasting bilateral relationships to emerge from faculty collaborations. The Center for International Education has initiated a short-term lecturing program at partner institutions in China, which is open to NAU faculty from any discipline. Faculty may lecture for one to two weeks and visit up to two partner institutions during that time. The center provides a modest stipend, and the host institution pays for room and board, ground transportation and cultural visits in the host city.
The first graduating class of Chinese students in the 1+2+1 program included:
- Gong Jieyu: bachelor of science in American political studies from NAU and Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology
- Yang Nanou: bachelor of arts in anthropology from NAU and Yunnan University
- Ding Sihua: bachelor of science in engineering physics from NAU and Xi’an University of Science and Technology
- Wu Hao: bachelor of science in engineering physics from NAU and Xi’an University of Science and Technology
- Chen Jing: bachelor of arts in music from NAU and Yunnan University