Martin Leads UW Delegation to China

UW–MADISON NEWS (March 22, 2010) — Chancellor Biddy Martin is leading a delegation of University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty and staff to China as part of her first trip to Asia as the university’s leader.

Martin is visiting Beijing, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Shanghai to participate in a variety of activities designed to raise the university’s visibility in the world’s most populous nation and promote international research collaborations.

“It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to serve as an ambassador of our state and university to a country of 1.3 billion people,” says Martin, who previously traveled to China when she was provost at Cornell University.

“Anyone who follows the news knows that China becomes more and more important with each passing day,” she adds. “My goal is to ensure that engagement by our state and university continues to be both deep and meaningful.”

The rise of China as a global power during the past decade has been well documented. But UW–Madison’s ties go back nearly a century.

The university has been building a cooperative relationship with China since at least 1912, when President Woodrow Wilson nominated a member of the faculty in the political science department, Paul Samuel Reinsch, to be the first U.S. ambassador to a republican China.

The relationship was further enhanced by former Chancellor Irving Shain, who expanded efforts to bring Chinese international students to Madison in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Today, UW–Madison has more than 1,200 students from China, more than from any other country, and its 70 Chinese faculty are believed to be the most at a single institution in the U.S.

As of 2009, there were 425 scholars (faculty and researchers) from China working at UW–Madison — an increase from 97 a decade ago. Every semester, more than 300 students study Mandarin and Classical Chinese on campus. In 2007-08, 178 students spent time studying in China.

Cooperation between the university and those in China is extensive. UW–Madison was the first American university to offer a Ph.D. program in Buddhist studies; the university’s leading linguist in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature is regularly invited to Peking University to lecture to Chinese faculty; officials from Shanghai come to UW–Madison for training via the Law School’s Center for East Asian Legal Studies, among numerous other projects.

To advance such efforts, in 2007, the Division of International Studies established the China Initiative and convened a group of faculty, alumni and leaders in business and government to bolster research and teaching about China.

As part of her trip, Martin is meeting with the presidents of partner universities in each city, as well as officials of the Ministry of Education, the Chinese Association for Friendship with People of Foreign Countries, the Academy of Engineering, the Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Social Sciences.

One idea that she’ll be discussing is the Wisconsin Idea, the principal that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom. Synonymous with Wisconsin for more than a century, this “idea” has become the guiding philosophy of university outreach efforts in Wisconsin and throughout the world. Martin plans a talk on the topic during her travels.

There will also be time for Chinese media interviews and meetings with business leaders, promoting the state and introducing current university research in biotechnology, green technology and clean technology. Martin also plans to meet with admitted Chinese students and their parents, along with parents of current students.

“We want to welcome these future Badgers to UW–Madison and to meet the parents who have made the important decision to send their child to our institution,” she says. “We’re eager to explain the great value of a UW education and to answer questions they may have.”