By Renée Hartleib |
Seventy-eight students living in Zhuhai, China, who have never been to Halifax, are poised to join the ranks of Saint Mary’s alumni. How is that possible, you ask? Well, thanks to a special partnership between Beijing Normal University at Zhuhai (BNUZ) and Saint Mary’s, these students will graduate with a rare and prestigious double business degree from both universities.
This unique Saint Mary’s Bachelor of Commerce program, with a major in Finance, at BNUZ was birthed in 2012, the first year that Dr. Patricia Bradshaw was Dean. She supported the proposal that Saint Mary’s expand their existing 2+2 program, which saw BNUZ students complete the final two years of their business degree at the Sobey School of Business in Halifax.
Rather than Chinese students coming to Canada, Saint Mary’s would travel to the students. “We created the program to build our brand as an international school and make our program more accessible to a greater number of Chinese students,” says Dean Bradshaw.
Each year, up to twenty faculty travel to China to teach Business and Arts courses to BNUZ students, all in English. Faculty live in apartments on campus in Zhuhai for 5-6 weeks.
Miguel Morales is one of these instructors and the current Academic Program Liason. He’s been back to China five times and sees it as a great opportunity to challenge himself, both academically and personally. “A lot is said about differences in teaching and learning methods between east and west,” says the Marketing professor. “It’s true, and ‘living’ it forces you to explore new ways to reach the students.”
On the personal side, living and working in another culture with his SMU colleagues has deepened these relationships. “Teaching in another country together forces us to get to know ‘the person’ behind the faculty colleague label. It’s very rewarding.” Some of the travelling faculty even bring their spouses and children with them. Zhuhai is a beautiful port city in the south of China, with palm trees, sub-tropical weather, fresh seafood, and abundant fruit. Plus, it’s only a 70-minute ferry ride to the most visited city in the world—the lively, cosmopolitan Hong Kong.
There is no doubt in Dean Bradshaw’s eyes that this dual degree program is offering an exceptional education. But recently some powerful evidence came to light. On an international standardized test, BNUZ students scored in the 99th percentile in finance. “They came out at the very top in the world for finance,” says the Dean. “The program is helping them get into graduate school, and we expect the same positive results when it comes to their careers.”
Haoyue Luo, a fourth year BNUZ Bachelor of Commerce student, is already reaping these benefits. Originally drawn to the program’s design, its practical approach, and its intensity, she’s already scored three prestigious internships during her four years of studies.
In Luo’s opinion, there is great value in learning from Canadian instructors. Not only do students gain knowledge about a different culture, but there’s also a vastly different teaching style at work. “The Saint Mary’s teachers greatly value participation and interaction,” says Luo. “We learn by group discussions, showcases, presentations, projects, and debates. This is very different from how Chinese teachers deliver their classes.”
The 21-year-old adds that she can literally feel the Saint Mary’s professors’ passion for their subjects. “The formulas, equations, and theories are very fascinating and beautiful in their eyes. I think my time with SMU instructors and their love of Finance has infected me and definitely confirmed my interest in Finance.”
The final plus for Chinese students is their enhanced fluency with the English language. “My classmates and I have improved a lot in reading and presentation skills,” says Luo. “We can now handle the English textbooks and assignments easily and are much more fluent and confident.” With many of these students choosing to go abroad after graduation to achieve a Masters degree, this is a major advantage.
Almost four hundred students are currently studying in this unique program, with Haoyue Luo and her fellow students becoming the first graduates this Spring. According to Saint Mary’s President Robert Summerby-Murray, this is a partnership that involves the dynamic exchange of students, scholars, and ideas. “As these students graduate in Zhuhai, they join a growing group of Saint Mary’s and BNUZ alumni in China.”
In a ceremony last June, Summerby-Murray launched the South China Alumni Network. “This network, in partnership with BNUZ, provides a new opportunity for the engagement of our valued alumni in South China and helps us celebrate their accomplishments. This is a further demonstration of the global reach of Saint Mary’s and our commitment to intercultural learning.”