SFU President’s Office: Dual Degree students ‘engaging the world’

April 08, 2015
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My recent trip to China as part of a provincial trade mission co-led by Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinsonwas intense and productive, and included visits to the China Scholarship Council, National Natural Science Foundation and the new headquarters of China’s e-commerce giant, Alibaba.

Without doubt, however, the highlights of the trip were the meetings with students enrolled in our dual degree programs at the Communication University of China (CUC) in Beijing and Zhejiang University (ZJU) in Hangzhou.

The ten students in the M.A. Double Degree Program in Global Communications did their first year of studies at SFU before moving to CUC to complete their second year. The class is a wonderful blend of Canadian and Chinese students, plus two other international students, all of whom who were adventurous enough to commit themselves to this innovative new program in its inaugural year.

It’s a commitment that has clearly paid off. The students spoke passionately not only about the quality of their classes and of the internships they’ve undertaken in both countries, but also about how much they have learned from each other and from their immersion in the cultures of two very different universities and societies.

While the program at CUC is new, the one at ZJU is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. However, the reaction to this pioneering dual degree computer science program on the part of the 40 undergraduate students with whom we met was every bit as enthusiastic. After showing us a video presentation they had prepared highlighting the educational and cultural benefits of the program, the students raised questions and shared perspectives with members of the provincial delegation.

One Chinese student, yet to come to Vancouver, spoke of his desire to participate in SFU’s Co-op program, while another asked about opportunities to engage in research and graduate studies. Two Canadian students spoke movingly about the value of learning in another country and in a different language, and wowed many of our delegation when they revealed that they had spoken no Mandarin before enrolling in the bilingual program and starting their studies at SFU.           

Listening to these students speak of the transformative impact of these extraordinary programs confirmed to me how much SFU truly is an ‘engaged university’ committed to ‘engaging students’ and ‘engaging the world.’