China Trip Update: Dean Bousquet Reflects on Journey

Gilles Bousquet, dean of International Studies and vice provost for globalization, currently is leading a University of Wisconsin–Madison delegation on a two-week visit to China, aimed at expanding and deepening the university’s connections there. The itinerary includes events and meetings in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, and Beijing.

Halfway through the trip, Bousquet reflects on the journey thus far.

Q:  What have you been able to accomplish?

Bousquet: Building on Chancellor Biddy Martin’s two trips last year, we want to secure more opportunities for our students to study at the best universities across China and for them to gain valuable professional experience with corporations and non-profit organizations. In this respect our stay in Shanghai has been extraordinarily productive.

Thanks to several dedicated and generous alumni and friends, we will be able to double the number of internships offered here. These include opportunities with leading corporations, such as Microsoft, a pioneer Chinese marketing communications firm, and a business consulting firm.

We also have been able to continue building our relationships with Wisconsin business icons active in China, such as Harley Davidson and Johnson Controls. We have UW interns working this summer at JCI in Milwaukee and Shanghai. I recently heard major employers in Wisconsin expressing an urgent need for graduates with the talent and experience to seize growth opportunities across China. So these developments are very exciting.

Our partners clearly see our regular visits here as a sign that we are serious and determined to build long-term mutually beneficial relationships.  Doors have opened at the highest levels at elite institutions. At Shanghai Jiao Tong, we’ve had our third meeting with the president and senior team in a year. At Fudan University, our medical school faculty have long-standing collaborations. We also visited East China Normal University, China’s most distinguished teacher-training institution and a major center for humanities and social science universities.

Q: Why is this trip important for both the university and the state?

Bousquet: The state of Wisconsin, like its flagship campus, competes today in a global market place. We met yesterday with the Wisconsin Department of Commerce representative in China, who made it clear that UW–Madison’s reputation and the relationships spearheaded by our alumni and our faculty provide an edge to the state’s economic goals here. We can do more to support our respective goals and to promote a thriving economy at home. We will bring back some specific suggestions in this regard.

Today, UW–Madison and Zhejiang University, in the historic city of Hangzhou, jointly hosted a conference on global higher education with our partners in the Worldwide Universities Network.

This week, 22 engineering students from UW, along with professors Heidi Ploeg and Laura Grossenbacher, are arriving here to spend the summer on the Zhejiang campus, where core Madison engineering courses will be taught in an international context with multiple interactions with Chinese students and industry around.  The graduates of this program will be among the talent that companies like Johnson Controls, Kohler, Bucyrus, and Promega will be seeking for their development in Asia.

Q: What has been the most memorable part of the trip so far?

Bousquet: In Shanghai, the river Hangpu runs by the famous Bund. I was mesmerized by the incessant round of barges, small and large, and sometimes huge cargo ships as they negotiate the river’s curves. These vessels, filled with sand, coal, wood, and containers, move up and down the river seven days a week. Meanwhile, the skyscrapers of the Pudong district – a marsh 20 years ago – provide a counterpoint of Shanghai’s global ambition and fast rise.

In Shanghai, there is no doubt that China is on the rise. I found this to be an excellent observation point for the depth and rate of change that is a hallmark of our global era.

Q: What are some of the Badger connections you have encountered on this trip?

Bousquet: When all is said and done, the human connection is what makes the difference. Shanghai has a vibrant UW alumni organization and we were fortunate to meet with some of them, including a business owner who has been in the city for 20 years, and several native Shanghainese. A current second-year student here is organizing a pre-orientation for incoming UW students from China, drawing more than 150 students and parents.

I met and was impressed by Adam Rieves, a UW-Madison bioengineering student who is entering medical school. He is here working in Dr. Jack Jiang’s lab at Fudan University.  Dr. Jiang directs the International Collaborative Research and Translational Research for the Department of Surgery at UW–Madison. This provides a wonderful transition to Adam’s first year of medical school.

Again and again, I am struck by the tremendous brand value of the University of Wisconsin in China, and the fond alumni memories our campus has generated.  One young alumnus, a Hong Kong native, said, “Family members went to Berkeley, but I decided to go to Madison, it is a great university and there is snow!”

Everywhere, I see a tremendous desire to partner with our university, and palpable excitement when envisioning or revisiting learning and living on our campus. I recognize this as an integral part of something larger. Fueled by a thirst for a high-quality education, the Chinese also desire to experience American life in a region that epitomizes the values of hard work and hospitality.

Q: What is next?

Bousquet: Tomorrow, we travel to Hong Kong, where we are fast developing some key university relationships and coming back to meet some very successful and influential alumni.

Photos from May Delegation to China