IEEE University Partnership Program Expands to China

Partnership offers student branches in Beijing additional resources and support

8 March 2010

The IEEE University Partnership Program has gone global. Peking University and Tsinghua University, both in Beijing, are the first schools outside the United States to join the UPP.

IEEE established the program in 1999 to build closer relationships with student branches and librarians at some of the top U.S. engineering schools. The program now has 15 partnering universities, including Drexel University, in Philadelphia; Stanford University; and the University of California, Berkeley.

The partnership offers student branches additional resources and support, including helping them network with local, regional, and international IEEE groups, as well as providing additional financial support. UPP also encourages the students to take full advantage of the benefits of IEEE membership, including scholarships, competitions, and conferences.

IEEE had wanted to expand the UPP to universities outside the United States, and set its sights on China as part of its initiative to increase its presence there. But first it wanted to hire someone who understands the language and culture and could advise students and help them organize events. That person is IEEE Client Services Manager Qing Li.

“These universities will lead the way for more non-U.S. schools to join the program,” Li says. “We hope these schools become role models.”

The two universities were chosen out of the 11 in China that have IEEE student branches—the fundamental criteria for joining the UPP. The academic ranking of the engineering school also is considered. “Tsinghua and Peking are the two top-ranked schools, and their student branches have a lot of experience in organizing student activities,” Li says. “In addition, the faculty, student members, and librarians were all excited to become a UPP partner.”

Celebrations marking the new partnerships held at each university in September together attracted more than 200 people. Li and Kristen Fitzpatrick, UPP’s manager at the IEEE Operations Center, in Piscataway, N.J., attended the events to explain the program. They also showed the librarians and student members how to get the most out of IEEE Xplore digital library.

As soon as the students were up to speed, they held their first UPP events. Students at Tsinghua University taught more than 200 faculty members and graduate students how to use the digital library’s resources. At Peking University, with Li’s help, the students organized a tour in December at Intel’s offices in Beijing.

“The students are very interested in forming relationships with local companies to be better prepared for the job market,” Li says. “It was a great opportunity for them to communicate face-to-face with professionals, to discuss the engineers’ career paths, and learn about technology trends.”

IEEE Student Member Tony Yang, chair of Peking University’s student branch, says the tour of Intel couldn’t have been possible without Li. “UPP is wonderful,” Yang says. “Before we became partners, our branch had financial problems. Sometimes we had great ideas for events but didn’t have enough resources and support. With UPP’s help, those problems are gone.”

To help the Chinese make the most of the partnerships, students from UPP universities in the United States have been providing suggestions for other events.

Given the commitment already shown by the new UPP partners, it’s only a matter of time before other schools are invited to join—including more in China as well as formalizing relationships already developed in India, according to Fitzpatrick. Down the road, IEEE is considering expanding the UPP to Europe and Latin America. “Qing Li is our model for how a local presence makes an enormous difference. That’s why expansion is limited in part to having an IEEE representative who can provide hands-on support for UPP,” Fitzpatrick says.

“I am proud that my university was among the first outside the United States invited to join the program,” Yang says. “I hope UPP is successful in China, and that it expands to India, Russia, and other countries. It’s important that UPP becomes global so that students from different countries and cultures can exchange ideas and better understand each other.”

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