Four years ago, the East Tennessee State University communication department created an opportunity of a lifetime for foreign students through the form of an articulation agreement with a Chinese university.
In 2008, an opportunity arose to formalize an agreement that allowed ETSU to set up a program for students at North China University of Technology in Beijing. The program constructed by Maria Costa, director of international programs, allows them to complete a degree in advertising with a minor in English.
An articulation agreement is a transfer agreement that allows students to begin their undergraduate work at one institution, and then transfer to another one to complete their degree. These agreements are common between ETSU and area community colleges.
In this case, the agreement enables foreign students to study at the institutions in their home countries and then transfer to ETSU to finish their degrees.
These students know which courses they are to take and total hours required at their institutions in their home countries to receive not one but two bachelor’s degrees, one in their home country and one here at ETSU. It also lets students know which ETSU courses to take after the transfer to complete the bachelor’s degree in their major.
“We predetermine the requirements to fulfill the courses that are here,” said Associate Professor Stephen Marshall of the communication department here at ETSU.
For example to take Advertising Graphics here at ETSU, a transfer of NCUT would need to take a course in Computer Graphics as well as Type Settings course to satisfy the requirements,” Marshall said.
It may seem as if the requirements aren’t equal, but this is because the credit hours don’t match up between the two institutions. For example, a course here would be a two-credit-hour course and the other two courses in the foreign institution would be a one-credit-hour course, which leaves a two-for-one situation.
If the agreement is followed completely as it is outlined between the two institutions both in the home country and here at ETSU, then the student will meet the requirements for the first two years of an ETSU bachelor’s degree.
In 2008, Marshall played a significant role in finalizing the agreement.
“With this agreement, students would take two years of English in their home countries and two years of advertising here at ETSU,” Marshall said.
This might seem like something new that ETSU is doing but ETSU has been involved with this for decades now.
“We’ve had a partnership with foreign institutions since the 1980s,” Costa said, “and it came about when one of the chemistry professors here did research with some colleagues from some of the foreign institutions, from that they expressed interest in collaboration efforts.”
Over the years, Costa has seen significant changes in the program that she has constructed.
“Numbers are growing,” Costa said, “and I think it has the tendency to continue to grow more.”
Even the teachers that have the opportunity to teach these students have seen the growth from the program.
“The number of students that I teach has tripled over the past two years,” Marshall said. “We have 22 students studying with us now with the largest Chinese cohort on campus.”
The graduation rate for these students that come to study here is at 100 percent.
“They (the students) all graduate on time,” Marshall said. “A larger group of the students upon graduation continue on to graduate study.”
“A lot of my students are now studying at the University of Florida, University of Iowa, University of Michigan,” Marshall said, “I even have a former student that is now working on the Mercedes-Benz account in Beijing.”
“We are so lucky and fortunate in the mass communication department to have these exceptional students,” said Deborah J. Roberts-Jessee, lecturer and marketing director at ETSU. “They’ve added a lot to the classroom, brought diversity and gave other students a unique prospective.”
The professors also make extra efforts to help the students adapt and transition well with the other students through activities such as team-building exercises.
“We do what we can to help acculturate the students,” Marshall said, “their culture plus their exposure to American culture makes them amazingly marketable.”
This program has shown growth and progress over the past four years and have been both beneficial for not only the students but for the teachers as well.
“This has made for a nice teaching experience,” Jessee said, “We need to continue to recruit to other institutions from all over.”