Creating a global university: CMU around the world

Over the past three weeks, Carnegie Mellon has made headlines thousands of miles away from Pittsburgh. On February 12, Carnegie Mellon’s West Coast campus announced the launch of its new master’s program in software management. And last week, Carnegie Mellon’s Australia campus received $1.35 million to fund 15 scholarships for students in the master’s program in information technology.

In addition to these campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif., and Adelaide, Australia, the university has branches in Doha, Qatar; Athens, Greece; and Kobe, Japan.

“Basically, this is a realization that the world has become an incredibly connected global economy,” said Carnegie Mellon President Jared Cohon. “And to be successful in that economy, our alumni have to be prepared to deal effectively in that very connected kind of world. That means understanding, first of all, that it is a connected global world, and second of all, knowing how to work across cultures.”

Carnegie Mellon’s Qatar campus offers undergraduate degrees in business administration and computer science. The Qatar campus is home to less than 200 students, and its inaugural class will graduate in May 2008.

“The case in Qatar is both unusual and unique,” said Lisa Kreig, director of the Office of International Education. “It has presented the opportunity to open up our perspective of Gulf culture ... in a way that we simply didn’t have before.”

Cohon emphasized the importance of cultural and intellectual exchange between campuses.

“[The global university] means ... going to these other places and having a physical presence in them,” Cohon said. “Qatar stands out because it is the only place we offer undergraduate programs outside of Pittsburgh. It is the only place where we have a presence in the Middle East.”

However, studies show that the university has made progress in globalizing the Pittsburgh campus — over the past decade, the international student population on Carnegie Mellon’s main campus has grown by about 146 percent, according to the Office of International Education.

With the exception of Qatar, the branch campuses offer only master’s programs. Established in 2002, Carnegie Mellon West (CMW) originally offered only a master’s program in software engineering in which students could choose to pursue a technical track and/or a development management track.

The master’s program in software management , which will begin next fall, was created to prepare students to address the business side of software within the context of the global market, according to a February 13 press release from Carnegie Mellon West.

Also in 2002, Carnegie Mellon opened its Athens branch. The campus offers a master’s program in science in information networking (MSIN), the result of a joint effort between Carnegie Mellon’s Information Networking Institute in Pittsburgh and Athens Information Technology, an education and research center in Athens.

The campus’s inaugural class of 23 students was composed entirely of Greek students with the exception of two students from Turkey. Now, the program has graduated 48 students from 12 different countries, including Greece, India, Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

Out of the 18 students of the original class who graduated in 2006, six chose to spend the second year of their program at the Pittsburgh campus.

“The diversity enriched my knowledge about cultures,” said Ali Zein, a first-year Lebanese student in the MSIN program.

Zein said that his academic and cultural experiences in Athens have been fascinating for him. Zein holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the American University of Beirut.

Ghassan Karami, a student at the Athens campus who is also from Lebanon, shares an equally positive attitude.

“Athens is a great place to live ... perfect weather, perfect night life, nice people, and the culture here is so close to our own [Arab] culture, so it is like living in Beirut,” Karami said.

The Information Networking Institute (INI) also contributed to programs at the Kobe, Japan campus. In 2005, the institute teamed up with the Heinz School to develop the master’s in information technology — information security program (MSIN-IS). The INI worked with the Hyogo Institute of Information Education Foundation in Japan to create the Carnegie Mellon CyLab Japan, an outgrowth of the Pittsburgh CyLab.

The CyLab develops new technologies for sustainable computing and communications systems and determines how the global economy will impact the development of such technology.

Last May, the Adelaide campus opened with master’s programs in public policy and management, information technology, and entertainment technology.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the College of Fine Arts and the School of Computer Science, students on the Adelaide campus have access to a brand new, state-of-the-art Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), modeled after the original center on the Pittsburgh campus. The ETC’s goal is to combine creativity and technology to produce innovative projects in entertainment.

The scholarship money was donated to the campus by Telstra, an Australian telecommunications and information services company.

The company’s CEO, Sol Trujillo, made the contribution because he was impressed by the region’s commitment to technological innovation and success in bringing Carnegie Mellon to Australia, according to a February 27 article by Australian news service AdelaideNow.

“One of our goals is to have students sign up and enroll in Adelaide and in Pittsburgh, but what we’d love to do is have the first semester for everybody be in one location, and alternate that location from year to year,” Cohon said. “This creates logistical issues and cost issues, but we’d love to do more of that.”

Zein agreed that the university needed to increase relations of students between campuses.

“The only connection we have [with the other campuses] is with the professors, and no relation with students,” Zein said. “Maybe CMU can integrate group work into some courses, and to have the groups composed of students from the different campuses.”

While the university has invested extensive efforts to get students to understand the meaning of global economy, Jennifer Church, dean of Student Affairs, also believes that the integration of students from different cultures still needs some work.

“Students tend to gravitate toward things they have in common, such as background, but also in terms of academics and student activities,” she said.

According to a 2004 undergraduate survey by University Planning and the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence, only 30 percent of the 2693 students surveyed voted that Carnegie Mellon promoted interactions with diverse others “a great deal.” Ten percent voted “none.”

“As a result of this very strong international student body, we have very strong student organizations revolving around nationalities. Those are good things too because they provide an organization on campus that focuses on each country’s culture and language,” Cohon said. “On the other hand, it also binds those students together to the effect that sometimes it separates them from the rest of the campus, and that’s a bad thing.”

The Pittsburgh campus has created several initiatives to increase the interactions between diverse students. The Multicultural Presidents Council (MPC), comprised of the presidents of the university’s ethnic student organizations, is one example.

Sunaina Menawat, a senior in psychology and public policy and management, is a multicultural intern who helps run the MPC.

“Our meetings are once a week and we focus on issues of collaboration and organizational support and advising,” she said.
Cohon reminded the campus community that creating a global university takes time.

Since Carnegie Mellon is one of the first schools to develop a global university system, he explained, there is no existing model to consult when the university runs into problems.

“We have to remember that we’re really at the outset of this globalization effort by the university. So we’re still discovering things, and trying out things as we go along,” Cohon said.