Professor Juan Pablo Gil-Osle sits in his office on ASU's Tempe campus. The top half of his body is visible, he is wearing a navy sweater, has short brown hair, and is smiling. Behind him are brown bookshelves filled with a variety of books.

ASU, Chinese university partner on undergraduate dual-degree program


Kimberly Koerth

These days, it’s not uncommon for students to complete two bachelor’s degrees at the same time, but a new cohort of students arriving at Arizona State University this fall is taking it a step further.

Through a new partnership between ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures and Northeastern University in Shenyang, China, six students from China will begin taking their junior-year classes in Tempe in August. When they’re done with their second year at ASU, they will have earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from ASU.

The international dual-degree program — the first of its kind at ASU for undergraduates — is the brainchild of Juan Pablo Gil-Osle, an associate professor affiliated with the Spanish section of ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures. After being contacted by Northeastern University three years ago about developing a partnership, Gil-Osle helped the university create a plan for its undergraduate Spanish program.

“The situation at Northeastern University is part of a larger trend in China,” Gil-Osle said. “The number of universities in China with new Spanish programs has grown enormously as a result of the increased economic and political interests of China in Latin America.”

Two years ago, Northeastern University hired two ASU alumni to build the first two years of its Spanish program. Norma López and Nelson Suarez both earned doctorate degrees in Spanish from ASU. The initial cohort of students they taught will attend ASU in the fall.

“The particular strength that ASU brings to this is that we are specialists in teaching Spanish as a second language,” said Shelley Stephenson, the senior director of international and special initiatives for the Office of the University Provost. Stephenson’s office assists with the development of academic degrees and supported the creation of this international dual-degree program.

Students who participate in the dual-degree program have the opportunity to study abroad in Spain or other countries during their time at ASU. They also benefit from smaller class sizes; courses that focus on literature, linguistics, culture and translation in addition to language; and immersion in both Spanish and English to help them develop their abilities in both languages.

ASU hopes to expand the dual-degree partnership to other universities in China and, ultimately, schools in other countries, as well.

“Dual-degree programs like this are an important part of how ASU engages globally, and diversifying the types of dual-degree programs we have can play a big role in our larger aspirations to engage globally,” Stephenson said. International students “come with a rich and robust set of experiences that enrich our classrooms and enrich our out-of-classroom co-curricular activities, so by bringing additional students here, I think we’re only adding to the richness of that global engagement on campus.”

Eventually, the dual-degree program could pave the way for other study abroad and cultural exchange opportunities involving the two schools.

“This new dual-degree program is the fruit of three years of collaboration,” said Nina Berman, the director of ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures. “I am very excited about this new educational opportunity, and look forward to welcoming the first students from Northeastern University to the Spanish program in the School of International Letters and Cultures and to ASU more broadly.”