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Connecting People and Ideas for Integrated Development

SUNY Wins Student Education Award; Dual-degree undergraduate program links 9 Turkish, 10 New York campuses


By Jeffrey Thomas, USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The largest U.S. university system has won an award for cooperating with Turkey in the undergraduate education of Turkish students, and their dual-degree program is being cited as a model for international cooperation in education.

"The dual-diploma program is the most effective kind of globalization in which we can engage," State University of New York (SUNY) Associate Vice Chancellor Robert Gosende told USINFO. "It is one of the most intimate ways for universities to work together. We elaborate a joint curriculum together, teach together and certify our teaching with the issuance of dual diplomas," said Gosende, who is also the head of the Office of International Programs at SUNY and holds the rank of ambassador for his work as special envoy for Somalia for former President Clinton.

The Institute of International Education announced January 24 that SUNY is the first winner of the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education, a new International Exchange Partnerships award, for its program with the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YOK). Turkish students in the program receive two undergraduate diplomas, one Turkish and one from SUNY, after dividing their four years of study between a Turkish campus and a partner SUNY campus.

"We have come to believe that, through this program, we can provide to students a much better education than we could if students came directly to our university for all four years or if students stayed in their home country for all four years. As a result, students have much greater employment opportunities upon graduation," Gosende said.

"Turkey is one of our country's oldest partners in NATO," Gosende said. "It is a country with which we have had particularly warm and friendly relations for the past 60 years. This exciting new program, which is enabling hundreds of Turkish students to spend half of their undergraduate careers studying at campuses within our system, will be most important in assisting Turkey and the U.S. to continue and expand this warm and friendly relationship into the future."

"SUNY's dual diploma program with Turkey has become a model for how we wish to work with other countries in our effort to globalize our campuses," SUNY Chancellor John Ryan said when the award was announced. SUNY and the YOK set out to create joint degrees at the undergraduate level in 2000. Such programs until now have been unusual "because it is harder to articulate degree requirements across national systems than at the master's level, and because students are younger and may require more support services," according to a program overview written by Gosende.

The program has grown from 33 students in 2003 to more than 1,500 students in 24 programs in 2006. Nine Turkish and 10 SUNY campuses are participating.

Both the SUNY and the YOK systems are large. SUNY has 64 campuses and 418,000 students, while YOK plans, coordinates and supervises a system of 77 universities with almost 400,000 students on campuses and an additional 200,000 students engaged in distance learning. Turkey has many more students taking national university entrance exams than it has places in its higher education system. The joint-degree program ultimately increases the number of Turkish students admitted to Turkish universities by providing additional places for qualified students. Both systems also benefit from the faculty exchanges that are built into the programs.

SUNY now is working on programs that will enable U.S. students to study in Turkey, according to Gosende, who added, "but even among those [New York State] students who never go to Turkey, their undergraduate experience is greatly enhanced by studying and living side-by-side with their Turkish peers. This program contributes to their knowledge of the Muslim world, a part of the world which is often not well-understood among U.S. university students, and strengthens the university's ability to foster a sense of global citizenry among its students."

SUNY currently is developing dual-diploma programs with universities in Russia, Poland, Mexico and Brazil, according to Gosende. A three-year U.S. State Department grant of $125,000 helped pay for the initial travel needs of faculty and administrators involved in establishing the SUNY-YOK program, and the department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs also provided $250,000 in scholarship funds in September 2002. The scholarships are administered by Turkey's Fulbright Commission, according to the program's Web site.

View All SUNY/CID News Stories from 2006