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UW President Ana Mari Cauce signs an agreement with Tsinghua University in Beijing creating an integrated degree program through GIX. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)
UW President Ana Mari Cauce signs an agreement with Tsinghua University in Beijing creating an integrated degree program through GIX. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)

Representatives of Seattle’s University of Washington and China’s Tsinghua University met in Beijing on Monday to announce the first degree program to be offered through the recently formed Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX.

Students will be taught by teachers from both universities and will end up with a master’s degree from each institution. The classes aim to break the mold for traditional technology education and train students in entrepreneurship, innovation and user interfaces for connected devices.

A rendering of the interior of the planned GIX building in Bellevue, Wash.
A rendering of the interior of the planned GIX building in Bellevue, Wash.

The GIX partnership, which is based in Bellevue, Wash., marks the first time a Chinese university has established a physical presence in the U.S. The idea was to create an institution where top universities from around the world come together and rethink how they prepare students for jobs in the technology industry.

From left: Former Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, former U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, Tsinghua University Chairperson Chen Xu, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Rich Sauer at the historic Gong Zi Ting on the campus of Tsinghua University in Beijing. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)
From left: Former Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, former U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, Tsinghua University Chairperson Chen Xu, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Rich Sauer at the historic Gong Zi Ting on the campus of Tsinghua University in Beijing. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)

Launched with the help of a $40 million gift from Microsoft, GIX hopes to get students out of the classroom and out into the real world where they’ll partner and solve problems for real tech companies.

The inaugural degree, which is just one of several that will be launched over the next decade, is built around project-base learning. Students will work in small teams to develop product ideas that solve a specific need or global challenge. They’ll then work with teachers and industry mentors to build prototypes and figure out how to turn their concepts into viable businesses.

“Innovation requires you to understand users so you build the right thing, know enough about the technology to prototype it and demonstrate it, and know how to pitch it and convey its importance,” GIX CTO Shwetak Patel said in a Monday press release. “This is going to be an intensive, integrated educational program in all these areas.”

Students who complete the program will receive a Master of Science in Technology Innovation degree from the UW and Master of Engineering in Information Technology degree from Tsinghua.

The program is expected to launch in fall of 2016. GIX’s Bellevue facility won’t be ready until 2017, so students in the inaugural cohort will spend their first year studying in China. After that, the program will begin at GIX.

“This dual degree program will provide students with a truly global education, giving them the chance to work with partners around the world on the challenges of our time,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said. “It will be a unique opportunity for the next generation of innovators, and it’s one that is only possible through the partnership such as the one we have with Tsinghua University.”

Tsinghua University Chairperson Chen Xu, UW President Ana Mari Cauce and their respective delegations meet in the historic Gong Zi Ting in Beijing. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)
Tsinghua University Chairperson Chen Xu, UW President Ana Mari Cauce and their respective delegations meet in the historic Gong Zi Ting in Beijing. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)
Tsinghua University Chairperson Chen Xu greets University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce at the historic Gong Zi Ting on Tsinghua’s campus in Beijing. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)
Tsinghua University Chairperson Chen Xu greets University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce at the historic Gong Zi Ting on Tsinghua’s campus in Beijing. (Dan Schlatter/University of Washington)
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