NC State in China Journal
June 3 - Terri Lomax
On Sunday, we said fond farewells to the Research Triangle Park delegation and welcomed Dean Martin-Vega back from Hong Kong before moving on from Shanghai to Hangzhou. We all enjoyed the sights of the Shanghai suburbs and then rich agricultural fields (including mulberry to feed the silkworms for the silk industry that the region is famous for) and farmers’ homes with interesting and unique architecture.
In the early 13th Century, the Italian explorer, Marco Polo, visited Hangzhou and described it as “without doubt, one of the finest and most splendid cities in the world.” It certainly is the most beautiful that we have seen during our travels in China. It is on West Lake and nestled against green hills with dramatic rock formations, and a major tourist destination for Chinese, due to both its natural beauty and history of more than 2,200 years. Hangzou once served as a capital of both the Wu Yue Kingdom and the Southern Song Dynasty. With a population of more than 6 million, it now serves as the political, economic, cultural, and communications capital of China’s richest province, Zhejiang.
Once we had checked into our hotel (fittingly named Shangri-La), we took a tour of West Lake, where we saw beautiful gardens, sculptures, historic buildings, and lotus ponds. We were fascinated by large kites -- being flown at night from the causeway -- that were lit with a light show of LEDs in bright colors.
This morning, we were welcomed to Zhejiang University by Dr. Jun Zhu, an NC State graduate (Ph.d. in Statistics when Dean Solomon was head of that department) who is now vice president of Zhejiang University. Zhejiang is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China and is similar to NC State in many ways. They are especially strong in agriculture, engineering, and architecture. Chancellor Oblinger and Vice President Zhu compared notes on what excellent relationships both universities have with industry, their success in obtaining research funding, and how they have similar priorities in extension and engagement. Because of the tremendous number of things we have in common, NC State is Zhejiang’s only sister university in the United States and vice versa. This is a very special relationship and Vice President Zhu indicated that they are interested in moving forward with wide-ranging collaborations that build upon the agreements set up when Provost Larry Nielsen visited last October. After a seminar by Chancellor Oblinger, we broke out into smaller working sessions with our appropriate counterparts to begin to plan further collaborations.
The first activities that have originated from the agreements signed last fall are NC State students and faculty traveling to Zhejiang University for five weeks of courses and Zhejiang students traveling to NC State for five-week summer research experiences. In addition, other Zhejiang students will be arriving in Raleigh in August for a “3-plus-1” program where they will complete their final year of their Bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang and a non-thesis Master’s degree from NC State in one year. We were delighted to meet the 17 students and three faculty from NC State who are currently midway in their stay at Zhejiang and to hear about their delight with Hangzou and the university, as well as their challenges as “pioneers” in this new program. Then, we met with the Zhejiang students who will be coming to NC State for either the summer or year-long program. They were, as you might imagine, full of questions. It was great to watch them connect with the NC State students and begin to share information and tips for student life in both countries.
Both sets of students then accompanied us on a tour of the new Zhejiang University campus being built in the northern part of Hangzhou. The university’s 40,000 full-time students (two-thirds undergraduates, one-third graduate students) were spread across six campuses, but the university has sold one of the campuses downtown and is building the new campus to consolidate the entire university, except for distance and continuing education, which will remain downtown. We went to the 17th story of the new administration building for a striking view of the enormous number of new buildings that have been built on former rice paddies over the past year and then ate a dinner in a dining commons that has the capacity to serve 20,000 students at the same time! The scale and speed at which this new campus is being built is remarkable.
After dinner, Chancellor Oblinger presented an overview of NC State University to an auditorium full of enthusiastic Zhejiang students. They not only asked many perceptive questions for nearly an hour of Q&A after the presentation, they also surrounded our entire delegation wanting more information once the formal session was over. Our NC State students also pitched in with their impressions and the Zhejiang students listened to them intently. We are looking forward to seeing many of them on our campus soon!
Our visit to Hangzhou and Zhejiang University has been fascinating and is over too soon for all of us. After we meet with President Yang over breakfast tomorrow morning, we will load up our bags one last time and head for the Shanghai airport to return home. It has been a fabulous trip that opened many doors and reaffirmed relationships. We look forward to the new opportunities and continued friendships ahead.
Chancellor Oblinger giving a presentation to faculty and students at Zhejiang University
Meeting with NCSU students who are studying at Zhenjiang University and Zhejiang University students who are interested in studying at NCSU
Vice President Zhu Jun (NCSU graduate with a Ph.D. in Statistics) welcomes NCSU Delegation