Partnership allows students to earn ESL master's degrees from UNT, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México

Patricia Cukor-Avila
Associate professor and chair of the linguistics program in the University of North Texas English Department.
Friday, October 26, 2007

Students may simultaneously earn master's degrees in English as second language from both the University of North Texas and the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, or UAEM, in Toluca under a program launched by the two universities earlier this semester.

The ESL master's program is the first dual degree offered in partnership by the two universities, and is a demonstration of UNT's ongoing commitment to globalization, collaboration and diversity, according to Manuel Goel, director of national and international academic cooperation at UAEM.

"We figured that since language might be a barrier to some potential students, it would be easier to do this program as our first one. UNT's Department of English and the Facultad de Lenguas, or languages department, at UAEM came together to work on this program," he said.

Goel said the three students who have enrolled in the program during its first semester are currently at UNT. They will spend the second year of the program in Mexico, and when they graduate they will each get a dual master's degree from both universities.

Dr. Patricia Cukor-Avila, UNT associate professor of English and chair of the Department of English's linguistics program, said the dual degree program has benefits for both UNT and UAEM students.

"When our students are able to teach English as a second language in another country, it is a great opportunity for them, personally as well as professionally," she said. "Living in a foreign country broadens students' understanding and opens their eyes to different cultures. In addition, the fact that the UAEM students earn a degree from a university in the United States gives them a professional boost in Mexico."

Dr. Jean Shaake, associate dean for academic affairs with UNT's College of Arts and Sciences, which houses the Department of English, said she hopes the dual degree will serve as a model for the development of other partnership programs or degrees.

 "The development of UNT-UAEM degree program has been a faculty initiative resulting from multiple exchange visits. The collaborative effort of the both faculties has generated an enthusiasm and commitment that will make the implementation of the dual degree successful for students," she said.

In July 2002, UNT and UAEM signed an agreement to collaborate on the academic training of students from both institutions and in research projects in materials science, environmental science, physics and related fields. Goel said the collaboration has expanded to include political science, psychology and languages.

The agreement also called for both universities to establish joint postgraduate degree programs in materials science, environmental science and physics. However, the teaching English as a second language program is the first dual degree program offered by the universities.

In 2005, UNT opened an office for UAEM in the College of Arts and Sciences. The office promotes the exchange of students and scholars between UNT and UAEM by providing information, contacts and other assistance.

Goel said that while many universities in Mexico have collaborative academic agreements with colleges and universities in the U.S., "UAEM is the only one with an academic liaison office on the campus of an American university."

Located in Toluca, a city of two million people 45 miles west of Mexico City, UAEM is one of the largest public universities in Mexico. The university has been educating professionals in all disciplines for 177 years, and offers a high school program, 58 undergraduate and 74 graduate degree programs. Its total enrollment is about 49,000 students.

For more information about the new dual master's program in ESL, contact Cukor-Avila at pcavila@unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

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