March 2, 2010

China Center gets director as U of C plans for India

Director of East Asian Studies Dali Yang will serve as faculty director for the University of Chicago’s Beijing Center, planned to open in September.

The Beijing Center will serve as a jumping-off point for deeper interaction between institutions in China at a time when few universities have the resources to expand internationally, President Robert Zimmer said in an interview. A committee is looking into creating a similar center in India.

“The center will have office space for faculty and seminar rooms in the Haidian district of Beijing, home to 20 leading Chinese universities, to encourage dialogue between the institutions,” Yang said in an interview last fall.

Yang, a professor of political science, chaired the 2008 faculty committee that recommended the center be created.

“It is a great experience for me to work with faculty from multiple disciplines and the university administration to create a center that will spearhead the University of Chicago’s international engagement and place the U of C at the forefront of U.S.-China educational exchanges,” Yang said in an e-mail interview.

Zimmer said the East Asian civilization program will relocate to the center, which will gradually develop “a capacity for ongoing interaction” between American and Chinese faculty after it opens September 14.

“I’m very optimistic that this is really going to be a full, University-wide engagement,” Zimmer said. He noted that further plans are already underway for the center, including a global health conference scheduled to occur soon after the center’s opening.

In addition to language and civilization courses, Yang said the center would help students find work in the country.

“We expect to steadily grow the number of course offerings for undergraduates in Beijing,” Yang said. “We anticipate that the center staff will help U of C students find internship opportunities.”

Zimmer said the University is hoping to benefit from interaction with Chinese scholars, and is forming partnerships with schools in China to that end. “[We expect] to have a lot of flow and interaction with Chinese students and faculty,” he said.

The center in India, which may be built in New Delhi, will build off of the successes observed in China, Zimmer said. “One of the proposals for the India center is being much more purposeful about bringing Indian scholars into the center in a way that we would support, and then bring them to Chicago for a time,” he said.

Beijing’s will be the second major center in a foreign city; one was created in Paris in 2004. Professor Robert Morrissey, who was on the committee that recommended the foundation of the Paris Center, sat on the recent committee that recommended the new center, Yang said.

“We have benefited much from his knowledge of the Paris Center’s operations,” Yang said.