Over the past year, Yale has worked to deepen its engagement with China through several initiatives and donations, while over the past decade, more international students have come to Yale from China than any other country.
In China, Yale Center Beijing opened in October 2014 to provide a space for Yale affiliates to conduct research and hold conferences, all while promoting the University’s global reach. The center will host Yale Young Global Scholars-Beijing, an academic program for high-school students, in January 2016. And at Yale, the SOHO China Scholarship, which was established to encourage low-income Chinese students to apply to Yale, was inaugurated last week. The seven scholarship recipients join a growing number of Chinese students at Yale, both in the undergraduate and graduate population, while interest in China-related courses has also continued to grow, according to students and professors interviewed.
“More and more college and universities in America want to establish partnerships in China, but Yale has been doing this for perhaps longer than anyone else,” said former U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke ’72, who spoke at the SOHO Scholarship inaugural event last week. “It has a very rich and successful history in interacting with students and institutions in China and clearly Yale’s expansion with the SOHO China scholars will enable Yale to reach more and more people from China.”
Besides the $10 million SOHO Scholarship, Yale last year received a $16 million donation from Neil Shen SOM ’92, Brad Huang SOM ’90 and Bob Xu, which established Yale Center Beijing. These donations are part of a larger trend of Chinese donations to Ivy League universities — over the past two years, Harvard received $15 million from the same SOHO Scholarship, while the university’s School of Public Health received a $350 million donation from Hong Kong investor Gerald Chan. Additionally, Columbia University recently received a $5 million donation to establish the Tang Center for Early China, which aims to advance the study of early Chinese civilization.
Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, said he supports the University’s increased engagement with China, which should run both from Yale to China and from China to Yale. Roach added that he would encourage broader and deeper linkages in the years ahead, citing the long-running need for expanded study abroad opportunities for students interested in spending time in China.
Roach — who teaches a course called “The Next China,” which focuses on the changing nature and future of the Chinese economic system — said the University could take steps to expand its course offerings on contemporary Chinese subjects. Enrollment in Roach’s class has increased by nearly 40 percent over the past five years, signaling heightened student interest in the field, he said.
Maggie Furlong ’18, who is currently enrolled in “The Next China,” said she values the course because it not only covers the recent history of the Chinese economy, but also the country’s modern state and future prospects.
“I think it is really important for liberal-arts schools not just to offer classes about the past, but also about modern-day insights,” she said.
Yale is increasing its engagement not only with Chinese college students and alumni, but also with China’s high-school population. Over the summer, the University announced that it would use Yale Center Beijing to host the inaugural session of YYGS-Beijing in January. Modeled after the existing YYGS program — a two-week summer academic experience at Yale for rising high-school seniors — YYGS-Beijing will likely include Yale faculty lectures, seminars taught by Yale students and career panels led by Yale World Fellows and alumni, said YYGS Deputy Director Erin Schutte ’12.
YYGS Director Ted Wittenstein ’04 LAW ’12, who also serves as director of International Relations and Leadership Programs for the Office of International Affairs, said increasing exchanges between Yale and China made now the right moment to bring YYGS to Beijing.
“We’re very excited to support the new Yale Center in Beijing, promote the center in China and to bring Yale faculty and students to China to interact with talented high-school Chinese students and others from across Asia,” he said.
Schutte said there were many inspirations for expanding YYGS to China, including Yale’s strong alumni network in Beijing, the University’s popularity among Chinese students and its strong relationship with China, dating back to former University President Richard Levin’s Yale-China Initiative. Schutte added that her team plans to reach a wide spectrum of Chinese students through targeted outreach and social media.
Roach said YYGS-Beijing will enable Yale to deepen its links with prospective students living in China, adding that he supports the new program and plans to lecture for it.
Asia Project Manager for YYGS Daniel Tam-Claiborne GRD ’14 said YYGS-Beijing should help Yale expand its reach in China.
“I’m excited to get Yale’s name out there and recruit folks who would be interested in YYGS but never could have attended it in its original incarnation,” he said. “I’d like to tap into areas in China and Asia that are less developed, with less of an idea of what Yale and YYGS are.”
In New Haven, the percentage of Chinese students at Yale is higher than that of any other international group. According to the Office of Public Affairs, over 500 Chinese students attended Yale College and its graduate and professional schools in the 2014–2015 academic year.
With the large influx of Chinese students, Chinese student organizations have also taken on a more prominent role on campus, both in providing a community for these students and in promoting Chinese culture to the wider Yale community.
Qiao Lu GRD ’16, former president of the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at Yale, said the organization offers support for new Chinese students by organizing airport transportation, hosting welcome parties and even planning group trips to IKEA. The ACSSY has also hosted three major events, aiming to bridge the gap between the Chinese student community and the wider Yale population. On the most recent Chinese New Year, the ACSSY hosted the Spring Festival Gala in Woolsey Hall, and in April, the group organized a U.S.-China forum.
Through these events, Qiao said he hoped the organization would help Yale students understand Chinese culture through the eyes of their peers, rather than through television or through a political lens. Ultimately, though, he said every Chinese student can help promote Chinese culture through small acts.
“The easiest way is to bring non-Chinese students to Chinese festivals and events,” he said. “For me, I always bring mooncakes to the lab during the Mid-Autumn Festival.”
Yung Wing, the first Chinese student to graduate from an American university, earned his degree from Yale College in 1854.