New Stanford center opens doors at Peking University

April 2, 2012, 2:05 a.m.

After almost five years of planning, the University opened the Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) last month. SCPKU, a $7 million project designed to strengthen ties with Peking University (PKU), builds off of a partnership between the two universities dating back to the 1970s, which has included joint academic ventures and a Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) established in 2004.

University President John Hennessy, currently on a sabbatical that began Feb. 15, attended the opening ceremony at the new center.

At minimum, several hundred faculty and students will make use of the SCPKU, according to Andrew Walder, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute, in an email to The Daily. Walder said that over 50 members of the Stanford community have already participated in conferences or other events at the new center in the past two weeks alone.

This new education and research hub will welcome 10 of Stanford’s programs, including the Asian Liver Center, the Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness and the Rural Education Action Project (REAP).  The seven other departments that will conduct operations at the center are the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS), the Stanford China Program, the Graduate School of Business, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, the School of Engineering and the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.

“As far as collaboration is concerned, Stanford does not operate in a ‘top down’ model – we expect collaborations to develop ‘from the bottom up,’ through individual programs and projects that are directed by researchers and heads of academic programs,” Walder said.

For example, REAP had previously been collaborating with the China Institute for Educational Finance Research at PKU.

“Stanford’s past collaboration with PKU make it a natural host for the expanded engagement that Stanford envisions,” wrote Matthew Boswell, REAP project manager for technology and human capital, in an email to The Daily. “The new center is a down payment on this vision, and provides some of the infrastructure that a vibrant academic partnership requires.”

Kim Meredith, the executive director of PACS, stated that SCPKU gives her research center the opportunity “to add an additional Ph.D. or two to our group who would just focus on work in China.”

“We would hope to convene what I would call a ‘China Council’ or ‘China Advisory Council,’” she added, “and really utilize the individuals who participated with us on the ground floor to help us think about how we continue our work in China over the future years.”

For Jenna Nicholas ’12, who accompanied Meredith on a PACS trip to China, the opening of the SCPKU marked a “symbolic turning point in East/West relations” where American and Chinese students can “work side-by-side forging friendships, vision and joint ventures in technology, science and social initiatives.”

BOSP’s physical plant in China may also benefit from the new center.

Walder said that the BOSP offices may eventually move away from Peking University’s “aging dormitory complex for overseas students” and into the larger facilities at SCPKU.

“The distance between the foreign student residences and SCPKU is roughly the same as the distance between Tresidder and Maples Pavilion,” Walder said. “That’s a serious hike, but it has never been seen as a serious barrier to a quality education at Stanford.”

The architectural firm Mo Atelier Szeto designed the new center, which was named after the father of former Stanford trustee Chien Lee ’75. The SCPKU building incorporates three levels – courtyard, mezzanine and garden. By using traditional gujian wood, the building was constructed without any nails or glue.

Brian Chhor ’13, who is spending spring quarter at the Beijing BOSP program, said that exploring SCPKU gave him a “sense of normalcy” akin to being in the Stanford bubble, commenting that SCPKU is much sleeker than the older PKU academic buildings.

Chhor said that the new center features the “best amalgamation of Stanford and Chinese culture” and that he was “particularly impressed by the paintings of Stanford at the four corners of the eaves and overhangs, sort of like a Chinese quad.”

“It’s things like this that remind me how lucky and proud I am to be a part of such an amazing institution,” Chhor said. “So much swag.”

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