Connecting with China

Monday, June 1, 2015

In March, Penn Arts and Sciences Dean Steven J. Fluharty, Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education Nora Lewis, and other School faculty and students traveled to Beijing as part of a University-wide delegation to celebrate the opening of the Penn Wharton China Center (PWCC). The PWCC will serve as a vibrant hub for the exchange of knowledge and resources between Penn’s faculty, students, and alumni and University partners in China.
The opening featured two days of academic discussions highlighted by a roundtable with Penn deans, including Dean Fluharty, and university leaders from across China, who explored ways to foster innovation and prepare the next generation of global leaders. Fluharty also moderated a program held by the Center for the Study of Contemporary China (CSCC) that focused on the array of choices facing China today. Panelists included Avery Goldstein, David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations and director of the CSCC; Yuhua Wang, assistant professor of political science; Guobin Yang, associate professor of sociology and communication; and John DiIulio, Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society and director of the Fox Leadership Program; as well as Penn Law’s Jacques deLisle, Stephen A. Cozen Professor of Law, director of the Center for East Asian Studies, and deputy director of the CSCC.

“The opening was a great opportunity to reconnect with our existing partners in China and be introduced to new potential associates,” said Lewis, who is already working on new projects with two top Chinese universities. Faculty at Beijing’s Tsinghua University who are colleagues of Martin Seligman, Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology and Director of the Positive Psychology Center, want to organize a positive psychology meeting at the PWCC. And Lewis is helping officials from Fudan University in Shanghai to arrange student participation in Penn Arts and Sciences summer programs.

For John DiIulio and some Fox Leadership students and administrators, the visit was also a chance to reunite with program alumni. Last year, a group of 46 Chinese students spent four weeks at Penn for a course in governance, leadership, and society. Co-sponsored by the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program and Fels Institute of Government with support from the College of Liberal and Professional Studies, the course was the pilot initiative of Fox Leadership International (FLI).

John’s son Danny DiIulio, C’15, was a teaching assistant for the course and had realized that, although the students were enjoying the program and Penn, they were homesick. A Mandarin Chinese major, Danny wrote a song in Chinese and performed it for the group. “It was a gift for them, to show I understood how they were feeling,” he said. He and some Chinese Penn students made a video of the song and posted it on the internet before their trip. By the time they got to Jiangsu province for the reunion, the story was getting media attention for FLI and the PWCC.

The PWCC opening kicked off a six-month series of events in China, which will culminate with a gala celebration and forum in September.