First Faculty on the Ground

Jonathan Muckell leaves for China later this week to teach at Chongqing University.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 28, 2019) – As Jonathan Muckell packs for 12 weeks of teaching computer science in China, his grandmother’s story comes back to him.

Muckell, a professor of practice and lecturer in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is the first faculty member to take part in the University’s new combined program with Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications. He leaves for China March 3. At Chongqing University, he will teach Introduction to Computer Science in English to more than 90 students.

It is not Muckell’s first trip to China. He visited once before with his father because of his family history. Muckell’s grandmother was born in Qinhuangdao, China, and lived there until she was 10. Her father managed a glass factory before World War II, and the family left China to spend most of the war in Nazi-occupied Belgium. After the war, they immigrated to New York.

When his grandmother, now 91 and living in California, saw the photos her grandson brought back of Qinhuangdao, she was amazed by the changes and growth. A church that was once surrounded by forest was now dwarfed by tall apartment buildings that had risen around it.

Qinhuangdao is more than a thousand miles away from Chongqing. But just as Qinhuangdao developed over the years, UAlbany’s new CEAS continues to grow and expand. The partnership with Chongqing University allows Chongqing University students to obtain two degrees in four years, and provides UAlbany faculty and students with opportunities for internships, research and project engagement at the university. Starting this semester, Chongqing students’ first three years feature instruction each semester by UAlbany faculty on the Chongqing campus. The students will spend their fourth year at the UAlbany campus with instruction provided by CEAS faculty.

The outcome is two degrees—computer science from UAlbany and software engineering from Chongqing University.

Muckell's great-grandfather once ran this glass factory in Qinhuangdao.

The glass factory Jonathan Muckell's great-grandfather managed in Qinhuangdao, China, prior to World War II. The photo was taken as the Japanese were invading China, shortly before Muckell's family left China for Belgium. (Photo, courtesy of Jonathan Muckell)

“Our new dual degree program with the Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications represents an important early step in the internationalization of the College,” said CEAS Dean Kim Boyer. “It also underscores the recognition in Chongqing that we are going to be an international player. Moreover, as the program fills in the next three years, it will produce some $2 million in additional funds (after costs) for the University and College, helping to underwrite our faculty expansion. When launching a new program, we always want to open with our best. In this case, that’s Dr. Muckell. Jon is a true pioneer, and I cannot think of anyone better qualified to serve as our first faculty member on the ground in Chongqing.”

The partnership provides UAlbany with educational, research and economic benefits, Muckell said.

“On the education side, I am a strong believer that diversity helps promote creativity and innovation,” he said. “Exposure to different cultures will help promote creative problem-solving to the Chinese students, as well as for the students and faculty currently at UAlbany.”

Chongqing University students have the opportunity to further develop their English language skills in a complex and academically rigorous setting.

“On the research side, there is an opportunity to recruit top students into the computer science or engineering Ph.D. programs at UAlbany. This program serves as a pipeline for identifying and recruiting top students from around the world to participate in cutting-edge research at UAlbany,” Muckell said.

“Financially, it provides additional economic resources to the new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, strengthening our ability to execute on our continued commitment to excellence in teaching and research,” he said. “For example, additional faculty will be hired in the computer science department as a direct result of the economic resources brought to the college via this program.”

Muckell said when the program is fully operational, there will be approximately 400 students enrolled in it at any given time.

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