Starting next year, eight New Haven high school students and two Yale alumni will travel to China as student ambassadors on behalf of the Yale-China Association and the 100,000 Strong Foundation.
This fall, the 100,000 Strong Foundation — a nonprofit organization born out of a State Department initiative launched in 2010 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 — designated the Yale-China Association as one of its eight signature partners for its inaugural year. The Yale-China Association, a nonprofit separate from the University intended to foster a dialogue between America and China, will assist the 100,000 Strong Foundation in fulfilling President Obama’s goal to have over 100,000 Americans studying abroad in China by 2014. After spending time studying abroad, the New Haven students and Yale alumni will travel across America, sharing their experience through such avenues as writing op-eds in their local newspapers, giving talks at their high schools and organizing events on campuses.
“The honor [of being selected as one of the eight inaugural partners] is a recognition of how well run the Yale-China Association is,” said Jane Edwards, dean of international and professional experience and Yale College senior associate dean, adding that the Yale-China Association has been a national leader in cultivating strong relations between the two countries since its founding in 1901.
Although independent of Yale, the Yale-China Association has maintained close ties with the University. Edwards said that the organization works closely with the University in providing postgraduate internships and opportunities to students interested in studying China, citing the Yale-China English Teaching Fellowship as one partnership between the two institutions.
The teaching fellowship enables Yale graduates to travel to China for two years, where they teach English at one of the Yale-China Association’s four sister schools, said Nancy Yao Maasbach SOM ’99, executive director of Yale-China Association.
All six students in the East Asian Studies major interviewed said that the Yale-China Association has supplemented their education by providing opportunities such as annual competitions and symposia.
“These competitions are a valuable way to discuss China in a policy context and with other students in a way that you can’t simulate in a classroom,” Nicholas Sas ’14 said. The Yale-China Association’s prestige and longevity enables it to attract important people to discuss U.S.-China issues with the intimacy of a Master’s Tea event, Mikko Salovaara ’15 said.
In addition to bridging the gap between Yale and China, the Yale-China Association also seeks “to create a deep and complex relationship-building opportunity that embraces New Haven,” Maasbach said. She added that for the first time in its history, the Yale-China Association has placed graduates of Chinese universities in New Haven public schools to teach Chinese through the Yale-China Chinese Teaching Fellowship program. The two schools that currently participate in this program — the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School and the Metropolitan Business Academy — will send the eight students as ambassadors under the 100,000 Strong partnership.
The Yale-China Association’s commitment to New Haven was one important factor in its selection as one of the 100,000 Strong Foundation’s founding partners, said Travis Tanner, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the 100,000 Strong Foundation. Tanner added that the foundation seeks to support students from diverse backgrounds who may not otherwise have the capability or resources to study in China.
Maasbach said this initiative will provide traditionally underrepresented students with opportunities to influence policy making.
“I am excited that this time next year there is a likelihood that a [high school] sophomore from New Haven is going to go to D.C. to meet Secretary Kerry,” she said.
Encouraging students to gain personal experience and develop an understanding of Chinese culture will be vital to ensuring the long-term stability of the relationship between America and China, Tanner said.
Edwards said the Yale-China Association may have been picked in part due to Yale’s high level of engagement with China. The University is at the forefront nationally in terms of student interest in China, Edwards said, adding that more than 300 students at Yale study Chinese language, a number she said was “astounding in comparison to nationwide statistics.”
David Yin ’15, the editor-in-chief of China Hands, a publication dedicated to U.S.-China relations, said Yale’s strong brand name in China also likely contributed to the Yale-China Association’s selection for the partnership. Yin cited former Chinese President Hu Jintao’s 2006 tour of America — during which he visited Yale but no other colleges — as one example of Yale’s value in China.
The seven other signature partners are the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Americans Promoting Study Abroad, Asia Society China Scholars, China Institute, Community Colleges for International Development, Teach for China and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.