November 17, 2004

Chinese Universities Sign Pacts With C.U.

Print More

President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 and a team of eight delegates returned from a trip to China last weekend after establishing programs with several Chinese universities. The delegates created student and faculty exchange programs with the prestigious Peking and Tsinghua universities, both of which are located in Beijing. Cornell representatives also paid a visit to Singapore to finalize an agreement with Nanyang Technical University.

The first meeting took place on Nov. 8 and resulted in a memorandum of understanding establishing a collaborative program between Cornell’s College of Engineering and Tsinghua University. The program, parts of which are expected to begin as early as fall 2005, will exchange students and faculty between the two universities. The program will also pursue one joint research workshop per year, alternating location between China and the U.S. Currently, the agreement is fairly specific about the number of faculty members to be exchanged, though the number of students is still being negotiated. Course offerings are still being discussed as well.

“[Tsinghua is] one of the best universities in China, and it specifically focuses on engineering and science,” said Dean W. Kent Fuchs, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering.

The engineering program will focus on nanoscience and nanotechnology, advanced materials, information sciences, mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, energy sources and environmental engineering.

The program is planned to take place over the summer, and is not limited to engineering students. Fuchs also explained that the program will be unique by allowing students to work at internships or co-ops, in addition to taking courses in China.

“We’re very interested in recruiting some of the very best Tsinghua undergraduates to study here at Cornell for the master’s of engineering program and also the Ph.D. program.

Secondly, we’re very interested in our own students to have the opportunity to study abroad in the summer; currently very few engineering students study abroad,” Fuchs said.

The next day, an agreement between the College of Arts and Sciences and Peking University was signed to establish the new China and Asia-Pacific Studies major. This new major will allow students to spend a semester of their junior year studying Chinese-U.S. relations and foreign policy in Washington, D.C, and a semester of their senior year in Beijing at Peking University. Organizers hope the program will allow students to gain insight on different perspectives of the same issues. Externships will be another important part of the program. “The program is intended to give students a deep understanding of both language and policy,” said G. Peter Lepage, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences.

While the technical details of the program are still being negotiated, it is expected that Cornell professors as well as professors from outside Cornell will be asked to teach classes as part of the new major. It is possible that about 20 students will be in Washington, D.C. and Beijing at a time (40 in total for both locations per semester).

Unlike the engineering program, CAPS will require students to have completed rigorous training in Mandarin, since the classes at Peking University will not be held primarily in English. Students can complete this requirement by entering Cornell with a background in Mandarin, taking three years of Mandarin at Cornell or participating in the Full-Year Asian Language Concentration.

Though there have been questions regarding how Cornell students may react to Chinese culture, administrators say it is unlikely it will be a concern.

“Part of the reason you want to send students to China is that you want them to have deep skills in the language itself. We want them to be exposed to the culture firsthand, and you can only do that if you go there and live, and you also speak the language. You can talk to people, watch Chinese television and so on. So an important part of sending people there is to expose them to the culture as it is,” Lepage said.

Lepage also stressed the importance of allowing undergraduates to participate in a program of this nature, since studies of this sort are typically reserved for graduate students only. He also discussed how students with the skills obtained through the program are in high demand from the government and private businesses alike.

The third agreement that was signed focused on technology and, more specifically, commercialization of university technology. Richard S. Cahoon represented Cornell’s Patents and Technology office.

Cahoon expressed hope that the preliminary agreement will be an opportunity for both the Chinese universities and Cornell to share their best practices and to develop professional exchanges between campuses.

Cahoon also described intellectual property concerns as a “major issue.”

“If joint discoveries are made and joint inventions, then Cornell and Tsinghua will need to work out how the intellectual property will be shared. Sharing intellectual property internationally is a new frontier for Cornell and for all universities in the U.S.,” Fuchs said. Both Cahoon and Fuchs felt this is an issue that is being properly addressed and will not directly affect the students or their research in China.

“This is a challenging program, but we expect it will appeal to a fair number of students, because China is obviously of great importance to U.S. foreign policy in the future and will have a very big impact on the U.S. It already is having a big impact on the U.S. today,” Lepage said.

In addition to the CAPS and engineering programs, Lehman also signed an agreement on Nov. 2 with Su Guaning, president of Nanyang Technical University in Singapore. The contract created a joint master of management degree in hospitality between NTU and Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Students will be trained to become leaders in the hospitality industry in Asia, a field where qualified managers are in demand. Participants will study hospitality and management from industry leaders and be prepared to work in leadership positions in hotel management in Asia, a rapidly growing industry. This is the first joint degree program to be offered by both NTU and the School of Hotel Administration.

In addition to Fuchs, Lepage and Cahoon, Lehman was accompanied on the trip by Barbara Krause, the senior advisor to the president; Thomas W. Bruce, the vice president of University communications; Alice Li, technology manager of patents and technology marketing; and Prof. David Wippman, law.

Archived article by Jennifer Murabito
Sun Staff Writer