Northeastern’s doctoral students can forge global networks and pursue experiential learning in an international environment thanks to new agreements with a pair of widely recognized universities in Asia and Europe.
The global experiential doctoral program between Northeastern, the University of Hong Kong, and Sapienza University of Rome is interdisciplinary flexibility, which allows students to pursue doctoral degrees in two different subjects at two different schools, says David Madigan, provost and senior vice president of Northeastern. A doctoral student focusing on physics at Northeastern could also study computer science in Rome, and vice versa.
Just as significant, students will have equal status at both schools, giving them full access to libraries and other resources, Madigan says. That’s a step up, he says, from typical exchange programs where students might have restricted resource connections because they are seen as “visitors” from one school while enrolled in a degree program at another.
“These programs will expose our Ph.D students to the intellectual know-how of both our faculty at Northeastern and faculty from around the world,” he says. “Students will benefit from an infusion of additional perspectives into their dissertations while also forging new research areas with our own faculty.”
“With Hong Kong, the first agreement reached, and now with Sapienza, we have created a global platform that will bring rich opportunities for cultural awareness and agility to our Ph.D students and their research,” adds Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning at Northeastern.
Interdisciplinary flexibility opens opportunities that typically don’t exist in conventional international higher education agreements, says Sara Wadia-Fascetti, a civil engineer who serves as vice provost of Northeastern’s Ph.D Network.
“Often when schools do one of these agreements, they lock students in to study similar disciplines at both institutions,” she adds. “We were intentionally flexible so that as our interdisciplinary research moves into new frontiers, we can connect computer science students to health epidemiology, for example, and start to create those broader opportunities—and ultimately support the birth of new fields.”
The European and Asian schools represent the Northeastern Ph.D Network’s international expansion, Wadia-Fascetti says. They also represent a framework that will infuse global experiences across Northeastern’s doctoral programs. The partner universities were chosen for their academic rigor, she adds.
With an enrollment of more than 27,000 students, the University of Hong Kong is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top global research universities in Asia.
Sapienza is one of the world’s oldest, with a history dating back more than 700 years, and is among the top 70 schools in the world, according to the Center for World University Rankings. Notable alumni include former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi.
In addition to their institutional pedigrees, both universities have faculty that are primed for a collaborative relationship, Wadia-Fascetti says.
“The students in these programs will need to be co-advised by faculty, one from each school,” she says “To successfully co-advise students, faculty members need to be collaborators. They have to know each other. They don’t have to be alike, but they have to have things that complement each other in their research.”
Such a linkage already exists between Hong Kong’s Swire Institute of Marine Science and Northeastern’s Marine Science Center, and Sapienza has a collaboration with Northeastern’s Institute for the Wireless Internet of Things.
A total of four students—one at Hong Kong University and three at Sapienza—will enroll at Northeastern this year. They will stay at their respective universities and attend Northeastern online via NUflex. The Italian students began in the fall of 2020 and plan to be in Boston for the spring or summer semesters in 2021. The Hong Kong University student will begin in the spring of 2021 due to differences in academic calendars.
The arrangement works out best for the students to begin their studies in Hong Kong and Rome given the global coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed international travel.
Students and faculty from around the world, including the United States, are invited to apply for the global experiential doctoral programs at Northeastern while also pursuing a doctorate at either Hong Kong University or Sapienza.
“Ph.D students will have contacts and experiences that are far richer than a student who enrolls in Boston and stays in Boston,” predicts Wadia-Fascetti.