Schlissel travels to China for first University visit abroad

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 3:29pm

While many in Ann Arbor enjoyed the generally pleasant weather of the past few days, President Schlissel experienced a typhoon halfway across the world.

Schlissel spent the past week in Beijing and Shanghai, meeting with Chinese research partners, University alumni, students and faculty on his first international visit as president of the University.

James Holloway, University vice provost for Global and Engaged Education, accompanied President Schlissel on the trip.

“China is a nation in which UM has deep historical ties,” Holloway said.

From 1880 to 1881, James B. Angell, president of the University at the time, also served as U.S. ambassador to China. Angell played an important role in encouraging more Chinese students to study in the U.S. by creating scholarship programs specifically for them. Currently, the University is home to over 2,500 students from China. According to Holloway, China is the most popular destination for University students studying abroad, with 400 University faculty, students and staff living in China last year.

“We have many successful research collaborations with the nation’s top universities” said Holloway of China. “This trip allowed President Schlissel to learn firsthand about the University of Michigan’s work in China”.

The purpose of the trip was twofold, Holloway said: to strengthen previously existing connections in China through direct leadership engagement and to develop new opportunities for University students and faculty to collaborate with China, a world leader in research.

“The nation’s large population and wide array of academic and research institutions make it an excellent place from which to attract academic talent and establish the mutually valuable partnerships that UM needs to remain a world-leading research institution,” Schlissel said in a press release.

The visit began in Beijing, where Schlissel and other University leaders met with China’s Vice Minister of Education, Huiqing Lin. They visited the University of Michigan's Peking University Health Science Center Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research, a collaborative research center established in 2010. Twenty-five of the 29 departments at the University Medical School have been involved with the joint institute, working on projects studying diseases that affect both the U.S. and China. The president also visited Tsinghua University in Beijing, where the University has collaborations in energy, sustainability and the environment. The University is a partner in the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, a $50 million project that both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology are involved in.

From Beijing, Schlissel traveled to Shanghai, where the University helped create the UM-Fudan Joint Institute on Gender Studies, founded in 2005. The president then toured the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Medical School, and visited the UM-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute, the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Andrew Heiskell award for international education.

“The trip helped create visibility of the University of Michigan in China”, said Jack Hu, interim vice president for research at the University, who also went on the trip. He explained that visibility in a nation like China opens up many opportunities for the University and its role in international research. “We got to see some of the first-class research that is being done collaboratively among UM faculty and faculty in these four Chinese universities, and they got to see us” said Hu.

President Schlissel also had the opportunity to meet with many alumni, donors, faculty and students in China.

“UM is a global educational community” said Rick Fitzgerald, associate director of public affairs at the University. “It’s a natural part of the president’s travels to meet with alumni, donors, potential students and research partners.”

In both Beijing and Shanghai, alumni receptions were held. Currently, China is home to over 3,800 University alumni. At these gatherings, Schlissel met with alumni and donors, as well as current UM students who are studying in China for the summer.