May 29, 2008

Univ. Trustee Leads First-Ever Ivy League Student Delegation to China

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The air was damp and the view clouded by smog, but at about 10:30 p.m. on May 27, 25 students from eight U.S. colleges and universities entered the Capital Hotel in the central city of Beijing, the capital of China. After travelling for 13 hours before landing at the ultra-sustainable Beijing Airport, the students, part of the first-ever Ivy League Student Delegation, enthusiastically began their 10-day excursion through Mainland China.

In an effort to foster intercontinental connections between American students and Chinese leaders, Mao Ye grad., Cornell University student-elected trustee, has spearheaded the first-ever Ivy Council China Program with the assistance of Shawn Kong grad., president of Cornell’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

“It took me an entire semester to plan … I dropped two classes,” said Ye, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics. His vision of strengthening the bond between the U.S. and China catalyzed him to jumpstart the program. “We know that there is still more to do in strengthening U.S.-Chinese relations. We firmly believe that a regular exchange program and other programs fostering interaction between American and Chinese student leaders is an important step[sic],” he stated in a letter outlining the mission statement of the delegation.

And as the China-bound college students disembarked from their China Air flight, Mao’s vision became a reality. The delegation, which is comprised of representatives from each of the eight Ivy League schools – the presidents of each Ivy student government; representatives from the Ivy Council, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization comprised of student government leaders and students from the the Ivy League; and student journalists – embarked on their long trip.

Five Cornell undergraduates are participating in the delagation: Current S.A. President Ryan Lavin ’09; former S.A. president Elan Greenberg ’08; Sarah Singer ’09, managing editor of The Cornell Daily Sun; Steve Matthews ’10, S.A. member and head Ivy Council delagate from Cornell; and Samantha Dong ’10, vice president of finance for Ivy Council.

The 10-day expedition through China is sponsored by the All-China Student Federation – the combined organization of the students’ union of national institutions of higher students’ learning, postgraduate students’ union and the union of secondary schools in China. It includes visits to Beijing, the Hubei province and Shanghi. However, the trip is much more than sightseeing spectacle as the participants will not only meet, but also engage in discourse with an eclectic mix of Chinese governmental officials, businessmen and students including Lu Hao, secretariat of Central Committee of Communist Youth League of China; Yao Gang, vice chairman or China Securities Regulatory Comission; Lu Yongxiang, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress; students from Peking University; and representatives from the Shanghai Media Group. While the delegation does not plan to visit the Sichuan Province, where a 7.9-magnitute earthquake killed over 68,000 people, the delegates donated over $450 to the ACSF to help with relief efforts.

Ye’s goal of creating a network of exchange between Ivy League and Chinese university students is evident from the daily structure of the trip. Each day will feature a different student-body president who will be that day’s leader. His or her responsibilities include giving a three to five-minute introductory speech that focuses on the sights and Chinese hosts the delegation will visit.

As the delegation settles into Beijing and continues its journey around China, keep checking this live blog, which will be updated consistently throughout the next 10 days. The entries will be varied in tone and in subject matter, but will undoubedtly track the delegation’s whereabouts, accomplishments, and reactions to the sights they take in and people they meet.