Summer 2018: The Return of Many Exciting Student Programs

July 4, 2018

These past weeks have been an exciting time for the Center in Beijing, with many students using the Center as their home base and taking full advantage of a variety of programs facilitated by the Center.

Chicago in Beijing Summer Language Program

The Chicago in Beijing Summer Chinese Language Program returned to the Center for another year, with 16 students from the University of Chicago and other universities. Students moved into the International Cultural Exchange Center at Renmin University on June 10, and they began the program with an orientation to the University of Chicago Center in Beijing and the surrounding area on June 11. Our hope was to ensure that students had additional guidance and support throughout the first week of the program as they adjusted to life in Beijing.

Classes started on June 12, and the structure of the program remained largely unchanged from previous years, with Youqin Wang and Fangpei Cai leading the classroom instruction as they have since the program’s inception. Joining them were four graduate students from China Communications University, each of whom was responsible for small group classes and one-on-one tutoring sessions each day. In total, the students had 25 hours of language instruction per week at the Center in Beijing. During the third week of the program, Wang recruited Renmin University undergraduate students to take part in a language exchange (30 minutes of Chinese practice for 30 minutes of English practice), a partnership which continued throughout the program. Wang also has students working on their personal journals, documenting their experiences in Chinese.

For the course’s experiential learning component, the indefatigable Cai has planned and accompanied the students on weekly Saturday excursions to many of the Beijing “must-sees”: The Great Wall at Mutianyu, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and the like. This year’s group proved their mettle by braving the Forbidden City during the 100-degree heatwave that struck Beijing during the last few weeks of June.

We hope that the program will continue to provide an enriching experience for students, and that they will greatly improve their language skills by the time of their departure on August 4.

Department of Visual Arts Trip (June 16 to 28, 2018)

The biennial Department of Visual Arts Trip returned to Beijing this year under the leadership of Geof Oppenheimer and Orianna Cacchione. The Center served as a logistical support system for this program, while Oppenheimer and Cacchione planned and executed the students’ site visits to locations throughout Beijing.

While the majority of the group’s activities took place outside of the Center, we were able to keep apprised of their fascinating visits to many different galleries and private collections throughout Beijing. The group had a unique opportunity to engage with Beijing’s sites of artistic production and consumption in a way that would not be possible without Oppenheimer and Cacchione’s expertise and careful planning.

Wanxiang Ambassador Fellows Program Conference

From June 25 to 27, the Center in Beijing hosted a three-day conference for this year’s cohort of Wanxiang Ambassador Fellows, members of a six-week professional development program for University of Chicago students interested in clean energy development in China. The program leaders were Saul Thomas, Meg Sieberg, and Winnie Tong, each of whom played a key role in coordinating the conference and the trip as a whole.

The Wanxiang program gives students the opportunity to engage with three of China’s major commercial hubs, with one week in Beijing, four weeks in Hangzhou, and one week in Shanghai. The conference in Beijing, therefore, served as the kickoff event for the program, with speakers from a range of industries providing students with context for their summer’s studies. Overall, the conference went quite smoothly. Even the weather cooperated, fluctuating between extreme haze and bright blue skies to give the students a clear visual of their subject of study.

The first two days of the conference sought to give students a comprehensive view of the renewable energy industry in China. To do so, Hu Wei, Vice President of the Zhenfa New Energy Science and Technology Group, and Li Xiangjun, Research Fellow Engineer at the China Electric Power Research Institute, provided context on the development and applications of photovoltaic power (e.g. solar panels) and power storage technologies in China. Building upon their presentations were Alfred Zhao, Market Analyst for Goldwind, and Gao Hu, Director of the Center for Renewable Energy Development at the Energy Research Institute (NDRC), who presented on the status and future outlook of China’s wind power industry and overall renewable energy industry, respectively.

With their enhanced understanding of the clean energy industry in mind, students moved into the third and final day of the conference, which focused primarily on relevant policies and regulations. Professor Dali Yang skyped in for the first presentation of the day, wherein he sought to give students an orientation to Chinese regulatory mechanisms. Zhang Weidong, Program Manager at the United Nations Development Program (China), then contributed his perspective from his work developing the hydrogen power economy in China. To finish the conference, Kevin Mo, Managing Director of the Paulson Institute Representative Office in Beijing, explained the status of recent energy policies created with an intent of lowering carbon emissions.

This year’s group of Wanxiang Fellows comprised of an enthusiastic and lively 30 students whose presence added a great deal of energy to the Center. We are excited to hear about the remainder of their trip.

Summer Program Preparation Meetings

10 students gathered at the Center to prepare for their trip to Chicago as part of the Biological Sciences Research Internship program. The selected students, from Peking University and Tsinghua University, will spend the summer conducting research alongside faculty members at the University of Chicago. This year’s group contains 10 very promising students, and they will certainly reflect well upon PKU and Tsinghua during their time at the University of Chicago.

Public Policy Research Program

Our administrative area was much fuller than usual with the addition of five undergraduates and one MAPSS student who came to Beijing to work on a variety of public policy research projects under the supervision of Professor Dali Yang. They arrived throughout the last three weeks of June, and stayed until August 24.

Our first intern to arrive, Danning Zhang, is a rising senior at New York University who will spend the summer conducting public policy research under the guidance of Professor Dali Yang. Three more research interns joined Danning on June 18: Yiting Yin, Jessica Breznick, and Yiyang Li, all of whom are undergraduates at the University of Chicago. The arrival of Fanzhu Lu, MAPSS candidate at the University of Chicago, and Sarika Mahbubani, University of Chicago undergraduate student, rounded out this year’s group of public policy research interns.

This large cohort of researchers will work on a number of projects on topics, from housing policy to child welfare. They will also have the opportunity to engage with scholars in Beijing in order to strengthen their research. So far they have met with Professor Ran Tao of Renmin University (PhD ’02), who gave them insight into his research on land use policies in China, left-behind children, and overall impact of the “China Model.”

Undergraduate Admissions Ambassador

For the second year, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions sent an Admissions Ambassador to Beijing to assist with regional outreach. This year’s Admissions Ambassador, Scarlett Zhu, is a rising second-year in the College who hails from Hangzhou. Scarlett will draw upon her experience as an international student from China to help prospective students and parents better understand the admissions process as a whole, and provide insight into the particular strengths of the University of Chicago undergraduate experience.

Scarlett has been an invaluable resource in drafting informational articles for prospective undergraduate families, and we look forward to helping her connect with more potential students and families as the summer continues.

Summer at the Center has gotten off to an excellent start, and there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months: more undergraduate researchers, a pre-orientation program for incoming first-years, and the continuation of the Summer Language Program, to name a few. We are delighted to have a full facility once again, and we hope that our programs continue to provide a useful means of engaging with Beijing.