The week of spring break, March 25 to 29, I made a trip to visit Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) in Shanghai. For several years, we have had a 3+2 program with SISU in which their students do an undergraduate business program for three years at SISU and come to SU for two years to complete our Master of Professional Accounting (MPAC) degree. The student ends up with an SISU undergraduate degree and SU's MPAC degree.
Each year, we go to interview and meet with the interested SISU students. Since SISU is focused on language training, we find the English language skills of the students to be very strong, but we still want to test that out by meeting with them. This year there are four SISU students in our MPAC program.
SISU was founded in 1949 as the Shanghai Russian College! It is one of the Chinese schools included in the government's Project 211, which means it is one of the more prestigious universities in China. It has about 7000 undergraduate students, 3000 graduate students, and 4000 international students! It has 37 different undergraduate programs, 33 master's programs, and 12 PhD. Programs. There are actually two business schools, the College of International Finance and Commerce and the College of International Business. We currently work with the former but would certainly be happy to collaborate with both!
For the past several years, Bruce Koch, chair of our Department of Accounting, has gone to Shanghai to do the interviews. In the process, Bruce has become a rock star at SUSI, known for his enthusiasm, sense of humor, fondness for spicy food, and love of cold temperatures. That is a tough act to follow.
SISU has two campuses, one in the city (HongKou) and one out in the suburbs (Songjiang). In 2008, David Reid and I visited the HongKou campus and our visit led to the creation of the 3+2 program. The undergraduate business program is at the Songjiang campus, so I had to travel out there to meet with the students, visiting that location for the first time. The campuses are night and day. The HongKou is small and contained like the SU campus, but the buildings are packed more tightly and generally taller. The Sonqjiang campus is spread out with stately buildings and wide grassy lawns, what you would associate with a large Midwestern university campus! The HongKou campus is in a noisy, traffic filled neighborhood. Songiang is in a quiet district of wide boulevards and manicured landscaping. It is about 60-90 minutes by car between the two campuses, depending on traffic.
First, I spoke to about 40 SISU students about the MPAC program and our new Bridge MBA program. Some SISU students may be interested in the latter. Then, I interviewed 16 students who were interested in the MPAC program to test their English skills and their interest in accounting. Of course, it was very interesting to talk to these students and learn about their lives and aspirations as well as their interest in SU! The interviews took place over two days, and in addition to our conversation I also gave them a short essay to write so we would know something about their writing skills.
After the interviews, in consultation with SISU staff, we ranked the students for purposes of awarding several partial scholarships we offer to SISU students. It was a difficult process since there were so many talented students, but we finally came up with a list we were happy with.
Throughout the process, SISU was a very gracious host. If the shoe were on the other foot, I doubt that we would do as good a job of hosting them to our campus! In particular, Ms. Xiaolin Yan, who serves as Foreign Affairs Secretary for the college, was always there to get me where I needed to go, answer questions, and do anything else needed. Thank you, Xiaolin!
During my visit to SISU, I also talked to several campus officials about strengthening the ties between SU and SISU, which they are anxious to see happen. Suggestions include a student exchange program, hosting visiting faculty at the two institutions, and creating a 3+2 program around the Bridge MBA.
During the visit I also visited with our alum, Diane Jurgens, who earned her MBA at SU and serves as Managing Director for Shanghai OnStar, a joint venture between GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industrial Company. It was fascinating to meet her and learn about her accomplishments, as it goes without saying that she is one of the few American women leading an automotive business unit in China or elsewhere, for that matter. I hope we will be able to get her to speak on campus over the next year or so!
I am now sitting in the Tokyo airport on my way back to Seattle. I did not notice much different about Shanghai in 2013 compared to what I saw in 2008. If you have been to Shanghai, you know it an impressive city with its miles and miles of high rise buildings and high rise freeways. All this has been created in just a few decades. It is interesting to see, but once you see it, it is not something you go out of your way to see again. That means that both this trip and my next trip to Shanghai will be about visiting SISU, maybe to begin collaboration with their College of International Business! :}