Mason Celebrates Graduation of U.S.-China Dual Degree Program Students

Posted: July 27, 2010 at 1:02 am, Last Updated: July 27, 2010 at 8:09 am

By Madelyn Ross, director of China initiatives

Mason Provost Peter Stearns and Vice President Yin Aisun of Soochow University in Suzhou, China, present graduation diplomas and certificates to four graduates. Photo courtesy of China Center for International Economic Exchanges

On June 22, Mason Provost Peter Stearns attended the annual graduation ceremony for the U.S.-China 1+2+1 Dual Degree Program, where 22 students received their diplomas in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The 1+2+1 program is a partnership between American and Chinese universities to offer dual degrees to Chinese undergraduate students.

Mason was one of the first U.S. universities to join the program, which now involves 18 American public universities and some 80 Chinese universities. The program has been recognized by the U.S. and Chinese governments as one of the largest and most successful education projects developed by the two countries over the past 20 years.

The first students from China came to Mason in August 2005, and the sixth group of students will arrive in August 2010. As of this fall, more than 180 students from 15 different Chinese universities will have attended Mason through the program.

Participants complete their freshman year in China, study at Mason for the next two to three years, then return to their Chinese university to complete their final requirements.

Some of the students initially enroll in the English Language Institute at Mason, but most quickly move into regular academic classes.

High-Achieving Students

Stearns and Vice President Jiang Gefu of Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, China, present a graduation diploma and certificate to Yunbo Geng, who won Mason's Alice C. Andrews Outstanding Senior in Geography Award. Photo courtesy of China Center for International Economic Exchanges

To receive their dual degrees, these students must complete the general and departmental requirements of both universities. At Mason, the students usually take a full schedule of five courses in each of the fall and spring semesters, as well as several classes during the summer semester.

Despite this demanding schedule, 1+2+1 students often excel in their classes and find time to make a real impact on the university.

According to Stearns, “Their intelligence and hard work have brought them many academic awards, and their willingness to reach out in other activities has joined them with many American students.”

Each year, the majority of 1+2+1 students at Mason are on the dean’s list, and some are honored with departmental awards at graduation.

For example, in each of the past three years, several 1+2+1 seniors have won special awards from the Economics Department; last year, Yang Xu had the highest GPA in the department.

This year, Yunbo Geng, who had the highest GPA in the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, won the Alice C. Andrews Outstanding Senior in Geography Award.

Di Wen, who graduated this summer with a computer science degree, also had one of the highest GPAs in his class and will attend graduate school at Columbia University in the fall.

The 1+2+1 students also participate actively in university life.

During Mason’s annual International Week celebrations, 1+2+1 students usually organize a fashion show and other cultural activities. They are consistently represented in the Chinese Students and Scholars Association leadership, and they play intramural sports, serve on committees and volunteer for projects.

Not surprisingly, this group of high-achieving students is also doing well after graduation. Those who go straight to the job market report good luck in landing positions, helped by China’s booming economy as well as their double degrees, international experience and bilingual skills.

About a dozen alumni of Mason’s program are pursuing postgraduate work, including several who enrolled at Mason. Master’s of business administration programs are popular, and graduates are attending Brandeis University, the University of Rochester and the University of Virginia in the United States. Other graduates are going to Hong Kong, Australia and England for further study.

University-Wide Impact

The 1+2+1 students at a celebration prior to graduation. Photo by Jacob Heater, BA Global Affairs '09

The 1+2+1 program is Mason’s largest dual degree program and one of the university’s key international initiatives.

The curricular challenges of a successful dual degree program have engaged Mason’s faculty and administration directly with their counterparts in China and brought valuable international education experience to the university.

The program also benefits Mason by bringing a select group of talented international students to campus, adding a global perspective to academic instruction and serving as a catalyst for other exchanges between U.S. and Chinese partner universities.

Mason has hosted several visiting scholars from Chinese 1+2+1 universities, and Mason faculty members have spent time at partner schools in China.

As a result of the relationships developed from the program, Nanjing Normal University dance students and faculty members performed at Mason this spring, and this summer, Mason music professors Linda Monson and Judith Lapple performed at Nanjing Normal University with 1+2+1 student and music major Feixue Han.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu