By Nancy J. Brandwein
In May, 27 students graduated as the inaugural class of the Dual BA Program Between Columbia University and Sciences Po. This joint-degree program enables students to experience a truly international education: undergraduates in the Program study for two years at the French university Sciences Po and then matriculate at Columbia School of General Studies where they complete their two degrees. Jessica Sarles-Dinsick, Senior Assistant Dean of International Programs, says 63 first-year students enrolled in fall 2015, a testament to the Program’s growing reputation.
After a rigorous admissions process, the class of 2015 enrolled in fall 2011 at Sciences Po and studied the social sciences. Students chose to matriculate at one of three campuses—Reims, Menton, or Le Havre, each of which specializes in a region of the world: the Middle East and Mediterranean at Menton; North America, Africa, and Europe at Reims; and Asia at Le Havre. Then, once at Columbia for their final two years, students chose from one of 70 majors.
In her years of shaping and growing the Dual BA Program, Sarles-Dinsick says she has learned “how philosophically aligned Sciences Po and Columbia are,” which points to the “kinds of students we’re looking for, students who want to learn as much as they can about the world around them.”
Close friends and Dual BA grads Adam Basuljevic ’15 and Anton Bengt Fredriksson ’15 are two such students. Originally from New York, Basuljevic radiates purpose and drive. Having been admitted into several Ivies, he thought, “What is going to differentiate me down the line?” so he took up the challenge of the Dual BA Program, both to stand out upon graduation and to study law as an undergraduate in France. In addition to participating in moot court competitions, Basuljevic reveled in the intimate international community of exceptional students in his Reims campus, even participating in student government. As director of nightlife he spent his weekends in Reims, developing relationships with bars and clubs, organizing the interregional college program, and, of course, perfecting his French.
“The Dual BA gives your Columbia University degree extra cachet.”
—Anton Bengt Fredriksson, ’15
Now with degrees in social sciences/law from Sciences Po and financial economics from General Studies, Basuljevic heads to Singapore as a private equity investment associate for Sovereign Wealth Fund. He was surprised at how well received his degree was by prospective employers. “It had a story, and [interviewers] found it incredibly interesting. When you’re in the thick of it, it doesn’t seem as special. When you talk to other people you realize, ‘Wow, this program changed everything for me.’”
Anton Bengt Fredriksson agrees that the Dual BA was a game changer—in life and on the job hunt. Fredriksson, who is now working for McKinsey & Company’s public sector clients, graduated from the Le Havre campus of Sciences Po with a degree in social sciences/Asian studies and a degree in urban planning from GS. “The Dual BA gives your Columbia University degree extra cachet,” he concurs.
Having grown up in Vancouver, B.C., with a Swedish father and a mother from Hong Kong, Fredriksson sought a European education and a way to work on his Chinese language skills. “The Dual BA came out of nowhere as the perfect fit that allowed me to do all those things.” Perfect fit and international pedigree notwithstanding, Fredriksson’s admission to Sciences Po came as a “…real shock,” he says. “I was absolutely impressed, intimidated. I had never studied the social sciences. All the other universities I was accepted to were for civil engineering. In terms of broadening horizons, this is what the Dual BA program does best—introducing you to new disciplines, new thoughts.” Like Basuljevic, Fredericksson was also active in student government, which testifies to the time-management skills they mastered as Dual BA students—Sciences Po required 10 classes a semester but had less homework, whereas General Studies limited classes to 5 but required more independent work.
Now both graduates are involved in starting the first-ever alumni network for the Dual BA graduates, and Fredriksson raises an interesting point as he looks back upon their experience. “Why General Studies?” and “Why are we nontraditional students?” were questions that dogged him when he began the program. “What we’ve found,” he says, “is that … GS is about more than teaching older students. It is pretty much the only school in Columbia that is innovative enough, that is flexible, that allows you to challenge existing norms and conventions. It makes perfect sense that the Dual BA Program is housed in GS, because throughout its history GS has been an innovative hotbed for education.”