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China Connections

China Connections

As I embark on my fifth trip to China, a few thoughts on Mason’s links to this vital global player.

In the first place, Mason’s Chinese activities vividly illustrate the fruitful combination of planning and serendipity. We have long identified China as one of our clear partner areas—and we’ve built faculty, curricular and linguistic capacity to match. So as we celebrate our China networks we’re highlighting the role of intention and focus. But so many of the specifics have been unplanned, the results of initiatives from China or a particular faculty interest, that it would be misleading to exaggerate the role of strategy.

The China links also illustrate how we depend on so many different programs and faculty, often loosely coordinated at best, for global success. Public Policy helped establish initial relationships, with a variety of imaginative efforts, many of which persist. Science and Engineering have contributed much, sometimes thanks to the efforts of faculty of Chinese origin: lots of collaborative research and training are involved here. But by now we also have arts and art management, conflict analysis, business management, nursing and other programs actively in the mix. It’s not easy to keep up with the range, and that’s a good thing.

Broader collaborations are vital. We owe a lot to our several Chinese university partners involved in the undergraduate dual degree program, as well as to the Ministry of Education and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. These arrangements have created opportunities in China for Mason students and faculty and participation in initiatives like the Global Problem Solving Consortium.  The establishment of an active Confucius Institute has improved our cultural and linguistic capacity, and our ability to serve the region in these areas.

Specific thanks are due to the many splendid Chinese students at Mason who, by themselves, illustrate the value of our China focus—and now some active alumni as well. Several deans, as well as faculty, have been vital in identifying opportunities. Our longtime China coordinator, Madelyn Ross, remains invaluable. It’s a genuine team effort.

And finally a note on my own surprise, as an American trained with a fiercely European focus, to have been able to expand my own horizons thanks to the Chinese links. I have believed for quite a while that solid educational collaborations are vital in relationships, like that between China and the United States, at once fundamental and difficult. Nothing recently has changed my mind on this point, or on the role that institutions like Mason can play, always in mutual relationships with our friends across the Pacific.