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Two Universities Form a Partnership for New Opportunities

A newly signed agreement between Santa Clara University and a major Chinese university will open the door to new opportunities for students and faculty. On Aug. 31, Santa Clara President Michael Engh, S.J., signed a memorandum of understanding with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which has 38,000 students and is home to one of China’s top-ranked engineering schools. One of its best-known alumni is former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

“When you’re in engineering, it is clear that there is a lot of action in two places outside of the U.S.: China and India,” said Godfrey Mungal, dean of Santa Clara’s School of Engineering.

The seeds for the collaboration were sown in 2008, when a Santa Clara delegation visited Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Now that the arrangement has been made formal, the universities are busy working out the details.

Santa Clara has proposed several possibilities. One is a faculty exchange. Another is a joint advising program for Ph.D. students, which would allow some doctoral candidates to study at both institutions. Finally, they hope to work out a student exchange, so both undergraduates and graduate students can study at the partner institution.

“Signing the memorandum is the easy part,” Mungal said. “Finding out what works for both sides, that’s the more difficult part but also the more rewarding part.”

Both schools have something to gain from the arrangement, in addition to learning about another culture.

“They have exceptional research in a number of areas,” said Aleksandar I. Zecevic, professor of electrical engineering and associate dean for graduate studies at Santa Clara.

Santa Clara can offer the Chinese faculty and students exposure to broad interdisciplinary courses covering topics such as engineering and ethics; the legal, social, and policy implications of engineering; and gender issues in engineering. Its location in Silicon Valley is also attractive, since many of its adjunct instructors work for Silicon Valley companies.

“If there’s a hot topic out there, within six months we have a course in it,” Zecevic said.

The collaboration will begin with the School of Engineering but may expand later to include other campus departments and schools.

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