The six students in the first graduating class of a dual-degree program offered by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Changshu Institute of Technology in China are true trailblazers, according to Chancellor James Schmidt.
In a virtual message to graduates from China this summer who completed the UW-Eau Claire portion of the international program in computer science and finance in spring 2020, Schmidt says the world needs more bilingual people who are culturally competent and ready to find solutions to problems.
“You showed great courage in pursuit of your education and you’ve gained languages skills and cultural knowledge along the way that will serve you well into the future,” Schmidt says.
“The program offers students a transformative educational experience and it is an important step in your lifelong journey of learning.”
UW-Eau Claire has had dual-degree programs through its Center for International Education since 2007. The Cooperation in Higher Education and Professional Development (CHEPD) is a successful 1+2+1 program where students from China spend their first and fourth years at their home campus, and their second and third years in Eau Claire. Students have the option of graduating early if they complete the required coursework; two CIT students graduated from the program after they left UW-Eau Claire in May.
CIT Vice President Zonggen Shen told students at graduation that their hard work allowed them to achieve their dreams of studying abroad.
“Today, you are the first graduates in the CIT Board of Sino-American Studies and you are the first graduates in the cohort between CIT and UWEC,” Shen says. “In the future, you will be the pride of our two universities in China and the United States.”
Chinese students choose the program because they can get a degree in four years. They can save time and it’s less expensive than other programs, says Yiliu Yang, Chinese program manager for UW-Eau Claire’s Center for International Education.
Yang says Chinese students with a dual degree become more competitive in the job market and when applying to graduate schools. With a dual degree, students who have been in other Sino-American dual-degree programs have received job offers from Fortune 500 companies and prestigious graduate school programs, Yang says.
The students graduated after a whirlwind final semester that saw COVID-19 eliminate in-person instruction starting in March. When the semester went online, “graduates made great efforts to adjust themselves to the new study model, working hard and completing their programs on time,” Yang says.
U.S. classes are different in presentation, research and assignments from what the Chinese students find on their home campus, Yang says.
“What it takes to excel in these classes is the braveness of walking out of your comfort zone and collaborating with others,” Yang says.
This fall, dual-degree graduate Hongyu Zhao planned to attend graduate school at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Zhao says her first impression of Eau Claire was large amounts of snow, warmness from local host families and the enthusiasm of classmates and professors. U.S. university instructors emphasize group cooperation and teamwork, which encouraged her to reach out and communicate more with classmates, Zhao says.
The Sino-American program taught another recent graduate, Ruiyu Li, to be more independent both in her studies and in her life. Residence hall activities helped her connect with other students and integrate into campus life, says Li, who received a job offer from a commercial bank in China before she graduated.
UW-Eau Claire will not have any new CHEPD students in the fall semester of 2020-21 because of changing U.S. policies on international students over COVID-19, Yang says.
A total of 96 CHEPD students are continuing students at UW-Eau Claire and 41 more are expected to begin their studies in the spring 2021 semester.
Top caption: Changshu Institute of Technology graduates, from left, are Ruiyu Li, Yumeng Zhou and Hongyu Zhao, shown here at UW-Eau Claire's commencement ceremony in December 2019. The three students from China received dual degrees from UW-Eau Claire and CIT, the latter this summer.