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Program gives students from China a path to success at U of T Scarborough

Among the 75 students graduating from the Green Path program are: (from left): Chuan (Michael) Liu from Beijing, Yue Chuan (Isla) Yao from Nanjing, and Chen Xing (Tony) Wang from Beijing. Photo by Mary Ann Gratton.

In Chinese, they call it the “green path” – the way to success.

That’s the route that 75 students from mainland have taken to prepare for life as undergraduates at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Since arriving from Nanjing and Beijing in May, the students have been part of the innovative Green Path program, a U of T Scarborough initiative that partners with two Chinese middle (high) schools.

Students with top marks come here for a unique, 12-week summer program that prepares them for U of T, with a focus on English language skills. Once they complete the Green Path program successfully, the students go directly into undergraduate studies at U of T Scarborough.

Green Path admits only excellent students and builds their academic skills in the areas of ESL reading, writing, speaking and listening, as well as introducing them to life in . The students are from Nanjing Foreign Language Middle School and The Experimental Middle School Attached to Beijing Normal University. U of T Scarborough Principal Kwong-loi Shun signed a memorandum of understanding with the principals of the two partnering Chinese schools, establishing the Green Path program.

The summer period on campus gives the students a solid level of orientation and preparatory time before the fall semester begins. Last year’s pilot program brought the first cohort of 15 students in the Green Path program, and not only did all of them pass the program, but every participant went on to earn A-plus in calculus – one of the university’s toughest first-year courses.

 “I would be much more nervous about being here if I just came here in September, right before classes started,” says Yue Chuan (Isla) Yao, from Nanjing. She is going into first-year social science, and hopes to be a journalist.

“The Green Path program gives us a good chance to adapt to this new environment.”

“This program is preparing us very well for undergraduate studies,” says Chuan (Michael) Liu, from Beijing. He is going into first-year social sciences and wants to become a diplomat. “It is so useful because we have been learning a lot about how to write academically, and how to speak in academic discussions.”

“When we first came to , we had a culture shock,” says Chen Ying (Tony) Wang from Beijing, who is going into first-year computer science. “But we’ve had so much help and support that we feel much more prepared for first year. These 3 ½ months of studying and living here have also made us all feel like one big community. The students from Nanjing and Beijing didn’t all know each other before, but now we’re good friends.”

Aside from ESL, the program includes many social activities and field trips, and the students have visited all kinds of tourist sites including the ROM, CN Tower, Centre Island, Niagara Falls, and ’s Wonderland.

The program is taught by faculty members from the U of T’s School of Continuing Studies. Green Path may be expanded to accommodate up to 100 students, and may also partner with schools in other Chinese cities in the future. If any of the students do not pass the program, officials here provide strategies for them, either recommending extra preparation or a reduced course load in first year. A special graduation ceremony and luncheon is being held on August 18 at Miller Lash House at U of T Scarborough.

Although U of T has enjoyed strong connections with Hong Kong for many years, the Green Path program is building new bridges with schools and educators in mainland China, says Don MacMillan, Director of Student Recruitment and Registrar, one of the organizers of the program. 

"This program is all about relationships,” says MacMillan. “Relationships between institutions, between students, and between staff members at all three locations,” says MacMillan. “We are forging some amazing connections through this program that will bear fruit for years to come.”

“The economy of mainland is growing phenomenally, so there will be a huge need for North-American trained, Mandarin-speaking professionals there as that boom continues,” adds MacMillan. “These graduates will be in high demand in the job market when they return, and our university will benefit tremendously from its connection with them, and from the role we are playing in training these future leaders.”

The presence of such exceptional students enriches the university experience for everyone at U of T Scarborough, says Jack Martin, Director, Hospitality and Retail Services and an organizer of the program.  “These are some of the best and brightest, and we believe that these talented and smart students enhance our campus tremendously,” says Martin. “Other students here may forge lifelong friendships with these people who are going to return to and play key roles in their new economy.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough