Quite a few people know about this highly successful program, but a further shout out is appropriate. The program, now in its 9th year at Mason, has brought 264 Chinese students to Mason from a variety of interesting Chinese universities. The students spend their first year in China, come here for two or more years, return for their final year at their Chinese institution, and if successful (as about 150 have already been) graduate with two degrees. A joint research project in their final year is part of the program.
The program is framed by an arrangement between the American Association of State College and Universities and the Chinese Ministry of Education, and Mason has established strong links with both parties in the process. Madelyn Ross and Diane Wang in the Global Office have devoted great effort to the program, along with a host of Mason faculty and staff.
The results have exceeded our original expectations in many ways. The students themselves have been very strong, with only a handful of exceptions. They often find they need a bit of further work on English when they get here, which they pursue quite diligently. They have majored in all sorts of things, with an interesting preference for economics but with interests also in Global Affairs, Music, Computer Science, Management and other areas. Their grade point average has been higher than that of international students in general, which is in turn higher than the overall Mason level. Individual students have won top honors as economics majors, and Mason 1-2-1 students have won a disproportionate share of program awards back in China. The annual graduation ceremony in China has become something of a Mason event.
But it’s more than grades and purely academic performance. Students have been very active in campus organizations and in off-campus opportunities, for example with Habitat for Humanity and Freedom House. They have helped tutor in Chinese courses. Not surprisingly, many of the graduates have done very well in graduate school placements, from Harvard to Hopkins to Mason itself, and in getting good jobs. We now have dozens of Mason grads in promising positions in China, a not insignificant token for the future. And our alumni base is strong and enthusiastic, another platform for further activity.
Wider benefits result also. The program has spurred a number of other China connections, including scholarships for Mason American students in China and, beginning next year, slots for Mason faculty visiting our counterpart universities.
Like many international programs, this one has its complexities, and there was some initial concern about the unknowns involved — as is so often the case with global ventures. But the strengths of the program have persuaded almost all the initial skeptics. The biggest current challenge, which we’re discussing actively, involves the high levels of demand from China, and whether to expand a bit in future. Chalk this one up on the clearly positive side, thanks to lots of good collaborators and, above all, the quality and risk-taking of the students themselves.