Students in Shanghai earn degrees

Suzi Starheim


Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, in combination with the Office of International Affairs, works to bring Chinese students to Kent State.

Provost hopes for an even exchange of students in the future

Students from Shanghai International Studies University are now able to receive a master’s degree after attending Kent State for two years.

Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, in combination with the Office of International Affairs, is working to bring Chinese students to Kent State from SISU.

Frank’s most recent trip to SISU was in December as a key speaker at the University’s 60th anniversary celebration.

“They asked if I would come and give a talk at the celebration event,” he said. “The trip was three or four days long.”

This trip was one of several over the past two years.

“Last year, we sent over a team from different departments across the university that spent four days there interviewing undergraduate students who wanted to come over,” Frank said. “It was sort of a combination between interviewing, education and sales of Kent State being a great place.”

This interviewing and recruiting process is crucial in getting SISU students interested in Kent State, Frank said.

The Office of International Affairs had prepared for a certain number of students coming from SISU.

“We were aiming for between 10 and 15, and we initially got 12,” he said.

Students from SISU will receive their bachelor’s degree from that university after three years of studying in Shanghai. Then they will attend Kent State for two years and earn a master’s degree. The programs that are particularly popular for students from SISU are business, communications and education, said Mary Anne Saunders, executive director of the Office of International Affairs.

Faculty members from SISU also have the possibility of attending Kent State. After two years here, they can earn a doctorate degree. Currently, four SISU professors are enrolled in Kent State programs.

For Fall 2010, Frank said SISU is planning to enroll five more doctorate candidates and 20 to 30 more undergraduates at Kent State.

Frank said these are large numbers of students for a single university to be sending.

“This particular university has been designated by the Chinese government as an international university,” Frank said. “They have very high percentage of courses taught in English, and there are a lot of international students on their campus.”

Frank said he hopes more Kent State students choose to eventually study at SISU. He would also like to see up to 40 undergraduates each year coming to Kent State from SISU.

“In a wonderful world, we would be sending 40 undergraduates over there,” he said. “If we could get 10 undergraduates over there in the next year or two, that would be a big success for us.”

Frank said the problem with sending equal numbers of Kent State students to SISU is possibly a language barrier.

“China is intimidating to Americans to go to, and Chinese are drawn to coming to the United States,” Frank said. “It is a hard place to travel, and it’s a hard language to learn and many, many more Chinese speak English than Americans speak Chinese.”

Frank said he hopes to find a few brave Kent State students to blaze the way for studying at SISU.

Applications from SISU students are not given special preference, Saunders said.

“These students went through a lot of scrutiny. You don’t just apply and get in,” Saunders said. “They go through all the scrutiny that other students would go through to get into these programs.”

The Office of International Affairs tries its hardest to make students coming from SISU feel comfortable and at home, Saunders said.

“The difference is that our students arrive with two suitcases. They don’t arrive in the family SUV loaded down with stuff,” she said. “Our students all have to go out and buy stuff, they have to buy everything.”

Saunders said this is a big advantage to the local economy.

“We estimate that it’s about $20,000 per student spent throughout the two years they are here getting their degree,” she said.

Contact academic reporter Suzi Starheim at [email protected].