Release Date: October 2, 2006
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- When University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson travels to China this week he will be the fourth UB president to do so since 1981.
At a time when many U.S. universities are just beginning to navigate China's complex political environment and establish new ventures there, UB this year marks the 25th anniversary of its successful, and historic, partnerships in China.
Simpson will celebrate the anniversary on Oct. 9-11 with visits to three Beijing universities that in 1981 were the first to open educational exchanges with UB, marking the first such agreements with any U.S. university following the normalization of relations between the U.S. and the Peoples Republic of China in 1979.
According to Simpson, the UB exchanges -- with Beijing University of Technology, Capital Normal University and Capital University of Medical Sciences -- opened the door for other U.S. universities to establish educational programs with China over the past 25 years.
"UB had the foresight decades ago to set up relations with higher education entities in China before anyone else in the U.S. did," Simpson noted. "We have a longstanding history of cooperation and collaboration that has benefited generations of students and faculty from both countries and which will continue to benefit future generations in decades to come."
During the trip, Simpson also will visit Nanjing University, on behalf of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. SUNY is considering establishing a joint campus with Nanjing -- one of China's leading universities -- in Xianlin University City. UB is one of five SUNY institutions working with SUNY Chancellor John R. Ryan to establish the joint initiative with Nanjing University.
Simpson also will attend an alumni reception with prominent Chinese leaders who earned degrees at UB or who graduated from UB's groundbreaking MBA programs in Beijing and Dalian. UB's roster of Chinese alumni is among the most impressive of any U.S. university. It includes China's Minister of
Education Zhou Ji and entrepreneur Robin Li, founder and CEO of Baidu.com, the Chinese-language equivalent of Google.
In 1980, UB was the first U.S. university to negotiate an educational exchange agreement with China after diplomatic ties were reestablished between the two countries. In 1981, under the auspices of that historic agreement, UB established the UB Language Institute in Beijing on the campus of the Beijing Normal College of Foreign Languages. It was the first American-run English Language Center in China. That same year, under the exchange agreement, China began to send students and faculty to UB, primarily to study science and engineering, while UB students and faculty traveled to China to study the country's culture.
The original exchange agreements were renewed over the years to include opportunities for medical students. In addition, the UB School of Management in 1984 established the first U.S. MBA program in China at Dalian University. That program closed in 1991 following the events at Tiananmen Square, but in 1999 the School of Management opened an Executive MBA program at Renmin University in Beijing and currently operates an Executive MBA program at Motorola University in Beijing.
Over the past 25 years, more than a thousand students and faculty from UB and its partner institutions in China have participated in educational and artistic exchanges, joint programs and research-faculty exchanges in both countries, according to Professor Stephen C. Dunnett, UB vice provost for international education. Dunnett and George C. Lee, UB's Samuel P. Capen Professor of Engineering, negotiated the first exchange agreements in Beijing in 1980.
"There was a definite sense of history; we were aware that we were opening up new doors in China to the mutual benefit of both countries," recalled Dunnett, who will join Simpson in China for UB's anniversary events. "I remember walking through the streets of Beijing with colleagues and being warmly greeted by ordinary citizens who welcomed the arrival of visitors from the U.S. I saw it as a public 'thank you' for what we were doing to advance education in China."
Lee recalled that "in the late 70s when China first opened to the Western world, we had a sense that the U.S. and China should start coming together to get to know each other. UB's exchange agreements were a milestone in the globalization of the entire world."
UB's historic role in advancing Chinese higher education is remembered throughout China today, according to Dunnett. A memorial hall at Beijing University of Technology commemorates of the career Robert L. Ketter, the first UB president to visit China. Ketter's leadership was responsible for advancing UB's presence in China in the 1980s.
UB's exchanges with China are still very active today, and UB is considering opportunities to open a branch campus in China in partnership with a Chinese university, Dunnett said.
"We are redefining our relationship in China," Dunnett explained. "Our successes and contacts in China are a tremendous asset as UB begins another chapter in its history in China."
UB's history and reputation in China have played a major role in internationalizing UB over the years, Dunnett noted. Today, UB ranks 11th among U.S. universities in international enrollment. More than 2,000 of UB's 4,000 international students are Asian, and nearly 500 of those students are from China.
UB's longstanding relationship with China was the reason why last year the UB Art Galleries and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery were able to present the "The Wall: Reshaping Contemporary Chinese Art," the most ambitious exhibition of contemporary Chinese art to travel beyond China.
Accompanying Simpson and Dunnett on the trip to China will be Simpson's wife, Katherine; Marsha S, Henderson, UB vice president for external affairs; Joseph Hindrawan, assistant vice provost for international education and director of international enrollment management; Richard Lee, M.D., professor of medicine in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; and Joseph Mook, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and associate dean for international education in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.