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Geography Partnership One of Three New International Agreements to Be Implemented at UC in 2008-09

New articulation agreements with three international universities -- two in China and one in Sri Lanka -- are expanding UC's educational reach around the world.

Date: 9/12/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825

UC ingot  

The start of the academic year sees UC crossing another international threshold, with the advent this fall of a new joint undergraduate degree program in geography in the track of Geographic Information Sciences between UC’s geography department and Sun Yat-sen University of China.

The geography program is one of three new articulation agreements between UC and international institutions. Students from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China are also arriving this fall to study in UC’s mechanical engineering program, and at some point between now and next fall, the first chemistry students in a partnership with Sri Lanka’s Institute of Chemistry in Ceylon will begin studying at UC.

The geography and chemistry arrangements involve students studying at their home universities for two years, and then finishing their final two years at UC – agreements that are known within academia as "2+2" articulations. The mechanical engineering students will be coming to UC after two years in Shanghai, and then will study three years at UC, due to their participation in co-op.

Lin Liu and his students
The new Sun Yat-sen students at UC: Xiangfeng Sun, Jingwei Ning, UC Professor Lin Liu, Shaotao Qiu, Yuhui Lia and Shuyan Huo.

"These are the first ‘2+2’ and '2+3' agreements we have ever negotiated with international partners," says UC’s Vice Provost International Mitch Leventhal. "We’re hoping to develop these relationships across a variety of disciplines, as part of our comprehensive international diversification strategy. We’re targeting elite institutions to affiliate with, and this, of course, will impact positively on perceptions of UC in other countries."

The two Chinese partners are both considered among the top 10 universities in their country, while the Institute of Chemistry is widely considered to be the top specialist chemistry program in Sri Lanka.

The first cohort of five geography majors from Sun Yat-sen arrived at UC earlier this month, and will begin their coursework on the first day of classes on Sept. 24.

"There’s been a lot of work to be done in getting ready for them," says Lin Liu, professor of geography and UC’s head of the geography department. "We already had a collaborative agreement with Sun Yat-sen, but the ‘2+2’ arrangement was challenging and it took nearly two years to develop."

Leventhal points out that, now that a template has been developed, future articulations should be able to be negotiated much more quickly.

Challenges come up in trying to make sure the students earning degrees through a "2+2" program are receiving a complete, broad-based education, including the general education component, which is unique to American higher education.

In the case of the geography majors, that meant acquiring all the course names and descriptions for the work the students have already completed at Sun Yat-sen, getting them translated into English and then having UC departments in those same areas offer findings on what course equivalents they would match from our curriculum.

The articulation agreement wasn't formalized until June. 

At UC, the students will have expanded opportunities to learn about Geographic Information Science (GIS), a rapidly growing field that involves mapping, geographic databases, visualization and computer algorithms. Applications for this kind of work include popular applications like Google Earth, Mapquest and GPS navigation systems.

Liu has been involved with Sun Yat-sen since 1996, when he first earned a grant to visit the school and help them prepare to teach GIS topics. Collaboration has grown through the years, and most recently, Sun Yat-sen faculty member Xia Li served as a visiting professor in UC’s geography department in winter of 2007.

The two institutions are organizers of an annual event, the Geoinformatics Conference and the Joint Conference on GIS and Built Environement, which is held in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where Sun Yat-sen is located.

More than 800 participants from 15 countries attended this summer’s conference, including three UC faculty members and a UC student, along with the Sun Yat-sen students who will begin studying at UC this fall. Almost 600 papers were submitted to the conference.

At the conference
Lin Liu, right, and Xia Li, the co-chairs of this summer's conference in Guangzhou.

"I’ve been monitoring Sun Yat-sen’s growth, and right now, they have a large (GIS and Remote Sensing) department with 400 majors,' says Liu. "This is a strategic relationship in terms of UC’s expansion into China, and gives us an excellent springboard. It’s a well-positioned partner in a well-developed region in China, so that gives us access to the Chinese market."

According to Leventhal, that is exactly the kind of strategy UC hopes to pursue across a number of colleges and disciplines.

"These arrangements accomplish several goals. One is they allow us a channel to recruiting proven top-quality students as undergraduates, who also enrich the undergraduate experience for other students by providing an international perspective," Leventhal says.

"They also provide a means for strengthening bilateral institutional relations, which can lead to joint research opportunities for faculty and even Study Abroad opportunities for our American students. Some of these students may qualify eventually for our graduate programs. And lastly, these international students are also paying a substantial amount towards their tuition, which, of course, helps cover the cost of education for all students – another positive factor in difficult budgetary times."

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