Wisconsin China Initiative welcomes new director, seeks new connections

The Wisconsin China Initiative (WCI) is ramping up efforts to engage with faculty and staff across campus to promote interests and coordinate activities in the Greater China region, as Nicole Huang, professor of Chinese literature and visual culture, succeeds law professor John Ohnesorge as WCI’s director.

Faculty and staff are invited to a public reception on Tuesday, October 2, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., at the University Club, to mark this transition and talk about the future of China-related initiatives across campus, including the recently launched UW–Madison Shanghai Innovation Office.

The WCI played a lead role in developing the Shanghai Innovation Office, the university’s first overseas outpost. A Wisconsin delegation led by Interim Chancellor David Ward inaugurated the office in June.

The Shanghai Innovation Office will continue to collaborate with the WCI, but will be administered by the Division of International Studies on behalf of the Provost’s Office, under the direction of International Studies Associate Dean W. John Kao.

“The Wisconsin China Initiative is still a work in progress, but what has been accomplished over a short period of time has been impressive,” says Interim Vice Provost and Dean Guido Podesta of the Division of International Studies. “Because China and its neighbors play such a significant role in today’s world affairs, the China Initiative should be of broad interest across campus, not just among faculty and staff who focus on this region.”

“The Wisconsin China Initiative addresses an increasingly important region of the world, not just a single nation,” Huang says. “We should see the initiative as an effort to address the strategic importance of understanding and engaging Greater China and other Chinese-speaking communities around the world.”

Nicole Huang
Nicole Huang

Huang intends to use her experience in building international alumni connections and fundraising to seek creative ways to ensure long-term sustainability of the China Initiative. She plans to focus on building alliances and partnerships across campus, within Wisconsin and across the Greater China region, where UW–Madison has strong alumni and academic connections.

“Partnerships with other campus initiatives are important, as are partnerships with area studies programs, academic departments and programs, not limited to one or two colleges,” Huang says. “The China Initiative should be seen as a ‘bridge-building’ venture, one that builds connection and synergy across our entire campus community.”

Toward that goal, Huang wants to engage with faculty from all corners of the campus in reshaping China Initiative’s governance structure and to build upon the previous work to broaden and deepen expertise on Greater China at UW–Madison and in Wisconsin.

Huang, a native of China, received her B.A. from Beijing University and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles. She joined UW–Madison’s Department of East Asian Languages and Literature in 1998.

She previously directed the university’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS). Under her leadership, CEAS expanded Korean Studies, inaugurated Taiwan Studies, and helped shape a more integrated and cohesive East Asian Studies community at UW-Madison.

During his term as faculty chair of the Wisconsin China Initiative (2009-12), Ohnesorge oversaw the development of a briefing document, Strategy of UW-Madison Engagement of China, the hiring of the WCI’s first staff person, and the hosting of numerous campus China-related programs and conferences.

Ohnesorge, who also serves as director of the Law School’s East Asian Legal Studies Center, accompanied two chancellor-led delegations to China.

“The white paper that Professor Ohnesorge diligently prepared has become a critical tool that has guided the work of the faculty, academic staff and students involved in this initiative,” says Podesta. “I want to express gratitude for his extraordinary service and my hope that he will continue to be closely involved with the China Initiative.”

-by Kerry G. Hill