University of Chicago celebrates opening of Center in Beijing

BEIJING - The University of Chicago will celebrate the opening of its Center in Beijing on Sept. 14 and 15, with a series of academic panels and other events, including a forum in which five Nobel laureates - faculty and alumni of the University - will discuss the importance of international collaboration in their work.

More than 500 guests, including University faculty and alumni, and representatives of Chinese universities and agencies, are expected to attend the opening events.

In April the University announced the creation of the Center, which supports collaborations between scholars and students from China and Chicago, across academic disciplines.

The Center has already become a home for research and education for University of Chicago undergraduates, graduate students and faculty working in China, as well as Chinese students and researchers representing a wide array of institutions. It builds on the breadth and the depth of the University's historic engagement in China in many fields of study.

Located in the Haidian District of Beijing, amid many major universities and research institutions, the 23,000-square-foot Center contains conference and classroom spaces, offices for faculty and researchers, and rooms for social events and group study.

At the April announcement, University President Robert J. Zimmer said the Center in Beijing represents the University's long-term commitment to build relationships in China to foster research and education and to exchange and test ideas that will benefit scholars, students and society.

"The Center in Beijing will be an intellectual destination and a permanent base for University of Chicago scholarship in China," Zimmer said. "After more than a century of significant research collaborations between China and Chicago, the Center will provide a focus for building upon that legacy."

Collaboration will be a central theme of the Center's opening events, which kick off Sept. 14 with the Nobel Laureates forum. Participants from the University of Chicago will include Prof. Gary S. Becker, AM'53, PhD'55, who received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1992; Prof. James Cronin, SM'53, PhD'55, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1980; Prof. James Heckman, who received Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2000; and Prof. Roger Myerson, who received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2007. They will be joined by Prof. Chen Ning Yang of Tsinghua University, PhD'48, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1957.

On Sept. 15, Zimmer will host a discussion with three presidents of Chinese universities: Gu Binglin, President of Tsinghua University; Ji Baocheng, President of Renmin University of China; and Zhou Qifeng, President of Peking University. That will be followed by a panel on economic development and the rule of law in China, including Becker, Heckman and Justin Yifu Lin, PhD'86, chief economist of the World Bank. Other panels will cover "Culture in a Globalizing Era" and "Science beyond borders: Chicago and China."

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Center will conclude the official events Wednesday, while the other conferences will continue at the Center on Wednesday evening and Thursday.

The Center promotes scholarship through three broad programs: business, economics and policy; science, medicine and public health; and culture, society and the arts. It will house the University's Civilization Abroad program for College students, and will offer an extensive language-training program. It will involve all the University's areas of study, including the professional schools.

During its first year alone, the Center will host more than a dozen academic conferences, covering topics such as global health, family and labor economics, high-energy physics, ink painting and Chinese opera.

"As China undergoes its remarkable transformation, there has never been a more important time for scholars from the U.S. to form fruitful partnerships with their counterparts in China and the region," said Dali Yang, the founding faculty director of the Center, a professor of political science at the University and an expert in the political economy of China. "The presence of the Chicago Center will allow us to promote a broad range of exchanges and collaborations above and beyond what we have been able to do so far."

Provost Thomas Rosenbaum appointed Yang to the three-year leadership post after Yang chaired a faculty committee that recommended creation of the center in 2008. University trustees approved the creation of the Center last year.

The Center in Beijing will be an ambitious step in building the University's international presence. In 2004, the University of Chicago opened its Center in Paris, which brings Chicago faculty overseas to teach University of Chicago curriculum across the disciplines, embracing the rigor and values of the University, while benefiting from the proximity of scholars working in Europe. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business has campuses in London and Singapore, where Chicago faculty teach in degree-granting programs. And the University's Oriental Institute has a headquarters in Luxor, Egypt known as "Chicago House."

An ad hoc faculty committee also has proposed that the University consider establishing a facility in India.

The Center in Beijing will capitalize on a strong body of work already under way. The faculty committee that recommended the Center catalogued dozens of ongoing research partnerships between Chicago scholars and their Chinese counterparts. Examples range from Dr. Janet Rowley's work on leukemia with leading Chinese hospitals to Prof. Paul Sereno's partnerships with Chinese paleontologists studying dinosaurs.

Chicago undergraduates currently have opportunities to study language and Asian civilization with University of Chicago faculty in Beijing, one of nine such Civilization Abroad programs that focus on the intellectual heritage of locations around the world. Graduate students in China do fieldwork in anthropology, history and a host of other studies across the region.

The Center in Beijing is a wholly owned foreign enterprise operating by the name of UCHICAGO () . Day-to-day operations are guided by the Center's executive director, Beth Bader, who previously managed Chicago Booth's Singapore campus. The Center in Beijing will not grant degrees.