SRU explores OPTIMA International College partnership


optima shake hands

Cheryl Norton, Slippery Rock University president, and delegates from Optima International College (from left) Zhang Fuqaing, chairman, and Vijaya Kumaran Nair, president and CEO, celebrate the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions.

Aug. 19, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has taken its latest step into globalization by launching a partnership discussion with OPTIMA International College, an institution with campuses in three economic powerhouses - China, Malaysia and India.

OPTIMA delegates visited SRU Monday and Tuesday to meet with SRU President Cheryl Norton and sign a memorandum of understanding for exploring program collaboration.

A formal agreement would create a global network of classrooms without borders and connect faculty and students from North America to Asia, for education, culture and language exchange.

amir mohammadi


"It is a global concept. It is revolutionary, it hasn't been done before," said Amir Mohammadi, SRU vice president for finance, administrative affairs and advancement services.

Mohammadi brokered the get-started visit as part of SRU's commitment to providing global, career-minded education. Mohammadi, who has traveled to China, India and Malaysia, knows OPTIMA leaders.

Mohammadi said the partnership would align with SRU's and Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education goals.

If the institutions ratify an articulation agreement, "Slippery Rock University will have its name internationally known," he said. "Slippery Rock University will get the revenues it needs, and it would fit into the president and provost's strategic vision and PASSHE's vision."

The beauty of the agreement, he said, is students could take classes at two or three OPTIMA branches and finish at SRU.

"Imagine if we have this relationship, which is a global university network, where you could take a class in biology in one country, then go on to the next country and come back and finish in the United States," he said.

brad wilson


Brad Wilson, interim associate provost for transformation experiences, said the relationship is part of higher education's agenda of breaking down barriers, especially between students.

"It's a wonderful situation for everybody," he said. "And it helps our students get that global perspective if we can bring more international students to campus. We're always looking for other ways to enhance internationalism and give students opportunities to get to know people from other places."

Students who participate in an experiential international program and become more accepting of other people acquire an extra employment characteristic in the U.S. and abroad, Wilson said.

"It's not enough to be able to do it," he said. "You have to be able to explain why it matters, how it changed you, what you learned from it. We think about globalism and internationalism in terms of how it's affecting the employment situation. Companies want to hire people but they want them to work overseas. They have offices located around the world. If you had the experience of leaving the country and interacting with others, you're going to be in a position where you're at least a candidate for those positions."

Pam Frigot, SRU director of the Office for Global Engagement, said OPTIMA seeks a partnership with SRU in a variety of different programs, such as hospitality, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Maybe their students might do one year in a science and finish their degree in chemistry here," she said.

While SRU currently has an articulation agreement with one Chinese institution, an OPTIMA partnership would expand SRU's global good citizenship.

"Anything we do with an institution like this is really special because of its location in three different countries," she said. "It opens up a lot of opportunities for students in that regard. If you think about it in terms of the academic piece, not only are visiting students going to learn about international marketing, they're going to learn about the American way of life when they're here. And then our students will have the opportunity to get insight into three countries."

Delegates from Optima International College participating in the sessions were Vijaya Kumaran Nair, president; Zhang Fuqiang, chairman; Jamuna Rani; Michelle Yi, vice president; and Shan Xiying.

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