Chinese Students Thrive in Dual Academic Program

Posted: August 17, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

1-2-1 Students with Dr. Merten
Students of the U.S.-China 1+2+1 Program meet with Dr. Merten.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

By David Driver

Mason has a strong history of international ties, and its U.S.-China 1+2+1 Joint Academic Program adds to the tapestry of one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation. Since Mason joined the program in 2004, Mason’s China coordinator Madelyn Ross has helped bring more than 75 Chinese students to the United States to study at Mason. A group of 29 is expected to arrive on August 19 for the upcoming academic year.

The program is an international education initiative that brings American and Chinese universities together to offer dual degrees to Chinese undergraduate students who would not otherwise have the chance to study in the United States.

Students spend their freshman year in a Chinese university, their sophomore and junior years at an American university, and their senior year back at their original university in China. Students receive baccalaureate degrees from each school after they finish all requirements.

Ross says this summer the program “is going very well. When students come here from China, they choose from one of about 10 majors offered in the program. A lot of the Chinese students start by studying at the English Language Institute together, though some have strong enough English skills they can begin immediately with undergraduate classes.”

Sixteen students arrived at Mason from China in 2005 and 30 in 2006. According to Ross, all 16 students in the first group have made the dean’s list for one or more semesters here, and they have made strong contributions to Mason both within and outside the classroom.

Current Mason students Liu Zongyuan, Lu Chuanchuan and Shi Chengcheng all came to the university as part of the 1+2+1 program.

Until he arrived at Mason in August 2005, Liu had never been out of his native China. He came to Virginia after spending a year at Yunnan University in far southwest China. “At the beginning, of course, it is different,” says Liu, a computer science major. “We got a lot of help from the school and American friends, and life becomes easier.”

Now in his second year at Mason, Lui has maintained excellent grades while holding a part-time job on campus. He even found time to travel to New Orleans and spend a week rebuilding homes there with other Mason students through a nationwide program for university scholars. “I like American culture, the study of the language and my major,” he says.

Lui will to return to his Chinese university early in 2008 and plans to graduate with a dual degree from Mason and Yunnan in software engineering and computer science, respectively.

A finance major, Lu studied English for 12 years before she came to Mason. “I think the teachers [at Mason] are kind, helpful and open minded. They spend more time with students than Chinese teachers do,” says Lu.

Lu hopes to find a banking job in China once she graduates. Her grandfather is a famous businessman in her hometown, and other family members are involved in banking.

Shi switched her major from finance to economics and would like to attend graduate school in the United States after she finishes her undergraduate degree in China.

Shi has become very involved in campus life at Mason. She is a member of the Chess Club and enjoys playing badminton at the Field House. When not working part time at Fenwick Library, Shi also plays table tennis, enjoys music and has attended several Mason basketball games.

Because so many of the students are not only adapting, but thriving, Ross wants to expand the program to have Mason students study in China. She also wants to offer faculty exchanges. “A major goal of the program [is] to have more two-way traffic,” she says.

“George Mason University is deeply committed to developing research and educational collaborations abroad,” says Provost Peter Stearns. “This goal contributes to the educational atmosphere available for American students. It further allows the strengths and values of American higher education to be more widely shared. Education is a resource that must be deployed to improve global relationships, and Mason is privileged to play a measurable role in this process.”

For more information, go to the 1+2+1 web site.

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