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Green Path program comes of age: First class graduates from U of T

TOP OF THE CLASS: Among the earliest Green Path students are (left to right) Chenchen Wu and Molu Shi, who will graduate from U of T at the June convocation. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

Students from the first cohort of the Green Path program at U of T Scarborough are set to graduate from the University of Toronto this spring.

This event marks a milestone in the life of the unique program, which has become a success story at UTSC. Green Path, which translates from Chinese as “the way to success” – is an innovative program that was first launched in 2005, when 15 students from three cities in the People’s Republic of China came to Canada to study at this campus.

The innovative 12-week program only admits top students. Each year, a group arrives in early June and lives in residence over the summer. Participants take classes, attend field trips and pursue activities that prepare them for life in Canada and undergraduate life at U of T Scarborough in the fall. Green Path focuses on English language skills, life skills, and orientation to Canada. Once the students complete the program successfully, they go directly into undergraduate studies.

Since its inception, this pioneering program has become so successful that it has expanded to partner with schools in six Chinese cities: Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Tianjin. To date, a total of 350 students have participated in Green Path. By the end of this summer, almost 500 students from China will have completed it.

“After welcoming these young people to Canada a few years ago and seeing them go through their undergraduate courses, we feel like proud parents now watching them graduate from U of T,” said Don MacMillan, Registrar and Director of Enrolment Services. “The Green Path students have greatly enriched our campus with their intelligence and enthusiasm, and they will have tremendous prospects for the future.”

Three students from the first cohort, Zhe (Marcel) Bao, Yan (John) Jiang and Molu (Moe) Shi, will receive their degrees from the University of Toronto at the June convocation. Of the remainder from 2005, many are taking co-op programs, meaning they need an extra term or two in order to complete their required co-op work placements prior to graduation. One student from the 2006 intake, Chenchen (Audrey) Wu, will also graduate this June, since she fast-tracked her studies and has completed her degree within three years.

Many Green Path students have extremely high Grade Point Average (GPAs) compared to the general student population, officials say. They add that these students are also well rounded, demonstrating excellence not just in academics but also in other venues such as the arts and athletics, as well as a commitment to campus life and volunteer work.

Student Molu Shi, 23, from Dalian, earned a near-perfect GPA and plans to graduate in June with a major in mathematics and a specialist in physics and its applications. He was offered spots in several of the very best graduate schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Berkeley, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, and the Rochester Institute of Optics. He has won several scholarships and awards, and he worked as a Teaching Assistant during his years at UTSC. He has chosen M.I.T., where he will pursue a PhD in physics, specifically in quantum computing.

The academic achievements of student Chenchen (Audrey) Wu from Nanjing, are also described as remarkable. She switched from co-op management to mathematics in order to fulfill the course requirements for graduate programs she wishes to pursue. Wu then fast-tracked her courses, taking seven courses per year (rather than the usual five) in three years, and nevertheless still achieved a perfect GPA of 4.0. Wu is the first Green Path student to finish a four-year undergraduate program in three years. She was offered a place in graduate school at Columbia University’s Master’s Program in financial engineering and the University of Chicago’s Master’s Program in the department of financial mathematics. She also received many awards and scholarships, as well as completing Canadian Securities Courses in 2007 and gaining co-op work experience.

Margaret Yan, Recruitment Officer (Asian Initiatives), says that the program’s success is due to U of T’s reputation and the campus community’s support for the program, along with the calibre of the accepted students. “We’ve spent a lot of time and energy developing Green Path and working collaboratively with our partner schools in China so that everything runs well, and we have tremendous support from the campus community here at U of T Scarborough.”

“These students have been very impressive,” Yan added. “Those who arrive are already top of the class, but they continue to excel in Canada. Two of this year’s graduates have perfect or near-perfect GPA scores (3.99 or 4.0), which is in the top tier for excellence.”

The students say Green Path has provided a solid bridge that enabled them to thrive in Canada and at university so far away from their homes. “Before I came to Canada, the Green Path program was the window through which I started to know this country, the post-secondary education system, and the University of Toronto,” said Molu Shi. “The many supporting staff gave us great help, and the summer program prepared us well for the four years of studies afterward. We all lived in Foley Hall residence, and I still remember partying in the common room after exhausting exams, learning recipes from each other, and traveling together to various places in Toronto. Several of us are still in touch closely.”

Graduating student Yan Jiang, 24, originally from Suzhou, China, has earned his BSc in computer science. Following Jiang’s graduation, he hopes to work for two or three years in Canada in something related to computer programming and then to apply to graduate school. Green Path was a big help to him when he first arrived, Jiang said. He still keeps in touch with almost everyone from his original group. “We often have lunch or dinner together, and after our graduation in mid-June, we’re hoping to get together to celebrate.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough