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Mizzou Engineering and Shanghai University plan cooperative Computer Science undergraduate degree

Officials and faculty from Mizzou Engineering and Shanghai University met recently about a soon to be implemented joint undergraduate program. Left to right, Dong Xu, James C. Dowell professor and chair of computer science at MU; Wan Wanggen, vice dean of the School of Communication and Information Engineering at Shanghai University; Wu Song, vice president of Shanghai University, Lex Akers, engineering's associate dean for academic programs; Brady Deaton, MU chancellor IZhong Guoxiang, executive vice director of the International Office at Shanghai University, Jim Thompson, MU's dean of engineering; and Xinhua Zhuang, a C.W. LaPierre professor in computer science.

Since the 1940s, the term “globalization” has been used to describe the increasing connectivity between people around the world. On November 30, the University of Missouri Computer Science Department increased its global connections when College of Engineering and MU administrators met with officials from Shanghai University to discuss implementation of a cooperative agreement between the two schools.

An anticipated memorandum of agreement between the two universities will create a coordinated undergraduate degree program whereby top-ranked Chinese computer science students will attend classes at Shanghai University for the first two years of their degree programs and then complete their undergraduate degrees in the computer science program in MU’s College of Engineering.

“As early at 1995, Dean Jim Thompson proposed the idea of joint programs such as this,” said Xinhua Zhuang, a C.W. LaPierre Professer in computer science whose connections to China have been instrumental in setting up the program.

In 2005 Zhuang served as general chair of a successful IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Workshop on Multimedia Signal Processing in Shanghai, China. The workshop was co-chaired by Dr. Wu Qidi, then President of Tongji University, also in Shanghai,. Two years later Zhuang was general chair for the IEEE International Conference and Expo on Multimedia in Beijing, China, also highly successful with over 600 attendees from all over the world and funding from high profile companies such as IBM, HP, Microsoft, Nokia and the National Science Foundation of China. Following the conference, Zhuang visited some of China’s top universities and met with their administrators, using the opportunity to discuss joint educational programs.

Zhuang’s contacts and relationships paved the way for the anticipated computer science program agreement with Shanghai University and he is confident that additional Chinese universities also will be interested in such a program.

“By doing joint projects with China, we will have more cultural exchange,” said Zhuang, an aspect of the program that greatly appeals to Lex Akers, the College of Engineering’s Associate Dean for academic programs.

“We want this college to interact much more internationally,” said Akers. “We intend to have Chinese and American students work in teams. We’d like to do some cooperative research projects that, for instance, would result in software or hardware that will have applications for projects in China. It would be beneficial to students to have exposure to international business ventures.”

Zhuang believes that MU students will benefit from exposure to the “more modest and less aggressive” Chinese culture, just as Chinese students can benefit from contact with the “more forgiving” American culture and the American ideals of democracy, freedom and human rights.

Jill Ford, engineering’s head of student enrichment, will work closely with the Chinese students to help them integrate into the college and beyond.

“We want the students to have a positive experience on campus and in the community, in addition to their college work,” said Ford.

In a pilot program, Ford was able to identify MU engineering students interested in cultural exchange. These peer mentors were paired with Chinese students and the group participated in several planned activities to break the ice and get to know each other.

In addition to an MU football game and an engineering dance, the students attended a dumpling festival sponsored by the Columbia Friends of China. More activities are planned, including a trip to Jeff City, where State Representative Chris Kelly will expose the group to the legislative process, a visit to the St. Louis Arch and an outing to Hannibal, MO.

“Even the Chinese students are familiar with Mark Twain,” said Ford. “It’s gone so well. They’re not waiting for the scheduled activities to get together with one another. They’re doing things together on their own.”

“Our tuition is reasonable,” said Zhuang, who said that many Chinese families send their children to study abroad and that tuition is much higher in other American universities as well as other countries, adding, “Our country is most attractive to Chinese students and their parents.”

“There is much scholarship on our faculty. They have had many great publications and inventions,” said Zhuang listing some of the Mizzou Engineering’s selling points. “Our students are very accomplished and many have gone on to do very well in business.”

“To implement something like this, you need good vision, good policy, good faculty and good connections,” said Zhuang. “The dean is a visionary and Lex is a true professional. Dong Xu is great as the computer science department chair, and has helped substantially with this project. Our university leaders are impressively open-minded and supportive, and I have been able to cultivate many good relationships. I am confident in the future success of the China program.”