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Global partnership aims to train 'exceptional' professionals

Melissa Mitchell, Arts Editor

The auditorium at Tsinghua University in Beijing
The auditorium at Tsinghua University in Beijing is modeled after the Foellinger Auditorium at Illinois. The Tsinghua campus was designed by T. Chuang, a 1914 graduate of U. of I. School of Architecture.

Released 2/15/2007

Editor’s note: Tsinghua is pronounced ching-wah.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new, three-way partnership joins the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Tsinghua University in Beijing and several multinational corporations with the goal of educating a new breed of professionals better prepared for success in the global marketplace.

The Tsinghua-Illinois-Corporate Fellowship Program Leading to a Professional Master’s Degree is a comprehensive, five-year combined bachelor and master of science program designed to integrate academic and work experience in China and the United States.

“The program is intended to produce a generation of exceptional young professionals whose education combines technical expertise with a deep understanding of global issues, Chinese and U.S. societal and corporate cultures, and the opportunities and challenges for corporations and business in China,” said Jesse Delia, the executive director of international research relations at the U. of I.

“Given the importance of China to U.S. multinational corporations and to U.S. economic interests, the development of such talent is critical to long-term corporate leadership and competitiveness.”

Delia said the program’s multiple missions include attracting participation and cooperation from multinational corporations by offering talented interns and prospective employees with a global approach; providing U. of I. and Tsinghua faculty with the potential for developing cooperative research opportunities; and enhancing the visibility of both institutions as leaders in global education and research.

Students completing the educational and training-based program will earn undergraduate degrees from Tsinghua and master’s degrees from Illinois through a “3 + 2” framework that includes three years of undergraduate education coupled with two years of combined graduate study and internship experience with corporate partners.

To date, founding corporate partners participating in the program and providing major financial support for it are Caterpillar Inc., Kraft Foods Inc., Flex-N-Gate Corp. and Novellus Systems Inc.

The pilot program, scheduled to begin in August 2007, initially will be open to Illinois and Tsinghua students pursuing studies in several fields – including agricultural, chemical, civil-environmental and mechanical engineering. A food sciences dimension also has been added in China through the inclusion of China Agricultural University, considered to be the premier agricultural sciences campus in China.

Architects of the program hope to expand its scope to include additional fields of study, such as social sciences, humanities, education and law, Delia said. The pilot program is expected to involve as many as 15 students. That is also the target enrollment goal for each academic year thereafter, he said.

Tsinghua students will study in China during the first three years of the program. They will travel to Illinois for the second phase of the program, which may include two months of English language instruction and cultural immersion (if needed), followed by three semesters of academic study and 11 months of internship experiences.

Illinois students will complete three of their four years of undergraduate study in the U.S., then spend seven months in China, immersing themselves in language, cultural and social science studies before signing on for an eight-month internship program with an international company based in China. Following that, they will complete two years of academic study in China.

Delia said the program was developed through discussions initiated by U. of I. Chancellor Richard Herman and Tsinghua President Gu Binglin with corporate representatives during Gu’s visit to the Illinois campus in 2006.

Herman said the new program is a natural evolution, considering that “Illinois has a long history of relations with Tsinghua.”

“The Tsinghua campus was designed by T. Chuang, a 1914 graduate of Urbana’s renowned School of Architecture, who modeled his design on our Quadrangle,” Herman said.

“Illinois also has a rich history with China and with its universities, with local and national government, and with the private sector,” Herman said.

“What we are embarking on is a carefully drawn partnership among these sectors. It is one that will bring excellent students to our doors for graduate education and training linked to the private sector in Illinois.

“We are pleased to join with Tsinghua University, truly one of China’s greatest educational institutions, and our corporate partners, who are successful on a global scale and with whom we are fortunate to have had long-standing partnerships. We see this program as a ‘first,’ and exemplary of one of the ways in which Illinois will work with the private sector and universities throughout the world.”

Gu said he also looks forward to the opportunity to work together to form new alliances with Illinois and the program’s global business partners.

“With the combination of academic study and corporation internships, as well as international experience, the program aims to foster talents who are capable to cope with the challenge of globalization which lies in the 21st century,” he said.

The program’s founding corporate partners also have high expectations regarding the benefits of their involvement.

“Caterpillar is honored to be a founding partner with two outstanding universities as they offer an innovative program for students in the United States and China,” said Mark Pflederer, vice president of Caterpillar’s Technology and Solutions Division. “This program will help prepare students to be future leaders in their fields. Innovation is part of Caterpillar’s corporate DNA, and I’m sure some of the students in this program will play a role in developing future machines and engines that will give our global customers the value and performance they have come to expect from Caterpillar.”

James Andrade, vice president of research and development for
Kraft Foods/Asia Pacific, said the partnership dovetails well with his company’s market goals and strategies in China.

“Kraft is committed to providing high quality products that are relevant to local markets and consumers’ taste preferences,” Andrade said. “In support of this, we are partnering with the top universities within China to identify and develop talent that will become the future product/package developers for the China market.”

Andrade said he and other Kraft Foods executives view the company’s participation in the program as an investment in human capital.

“Programs like the University of Illinois-Tsinghua/China Agricultural University internship provide the opportunity to grow the food science and engineering talent pool within China. By investing in the academic future of these young scientists and engineers, companies like Kraft Foods can ensure the products we provide for the Chinese consumer meet with their taste and nutritional expectations.”