University of Chicago introduces new academic center in Hong Kong

The University of Chicago introduced its new academic Center in Hong Kong during a series of events March 28. Provost Eric D. Isaacs (left) moderated a panel discussion, titled “The Frontiers of Science,” which included (from left) Profs. David Awschalom, Chi Wu, Robert Grossman and Ka Yee Lee.
Photo by
Sarah Nolan
Director of International CommunicationsUniversity Communications

Scholars from Hong Kong universities and cultural institutions joined University of Chicago faculty, students and alumni for academic discussions on the frontiers of science, human capital and development, and Chinese cultural history at a March 28 event introducing UChicago’s new academic Center in Hong Kong.

The center, which is already home to the Chicago Booth Executive MBA Program in Asia, will host workshops and conferences for scholars from across the academic spectrum as well as the University’s first undergraduate study abroad program in Hong Kong. In addition to academic panels, the event included remarks from President Robert J. Zimmer; Sunil Kumar, dean of Chicago Booth; and a reception.

“In Asia today, the world is witnessing an extraordinary set of political, social and economic developments with deep cultural roots. It is therefore of great value for many of our faculty and students to have opportunities for direct engagement and to build collaborations and institutional connections,” said Zimmer. “In Hong Kong, for the first time, a University of Chicago center will be designed from the beginning to accommodate both the Chicago Booth Executive MBA and the broad-ranging engagement of the University as a whole.”

The Center in Hong Kong joins the University’s Centers in Delhi, Beijing, London and Paris in bringing together researchers and students for interdisciplinary collaboration. The center is a home for UChicago faculty, graduate students and undergraduates working in Hong Kong and throughout Asia. It represents all parts of the University, including the College, the academic divisions, the professional schools and the University’s affiliated laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Faculty from Hong Kong universities have participated in conferences and workshops at the UChicago Center in Beijing since its inception—on areas of study ranging from physics to political science to medical ethics.

In 2012, the Center in Beijing hosted an exploratory meeting about the Asian Family in Transition Initiative, a collaborative research project led by UChicago Professor and Nobel laureate James Heckman and Prof. Junsen Zhang from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Through a series of conferences alternating between Asia and the United States, the initiative will broaden and deepen research on topics of the family and its contribution to inequality and social change. The first of these conferences took place March 26 at the new Center in Hong Kong.

“As with our other global centers, this is a faculty-driven effort,” said Provost Eric Isaacs in opening the day’s events. “The Faculty Advisory Board has already launched programming with the Economics workshop this past week and a Quantum Technology workshop next week—both of which have substantial participation from both UChicago and Hong Kong universities, and exemplifies how we plan to collaborate in Hong Kong.”

Academic program reflects areas of scholarship

Two panel discussions and keynote remarks on March 28 reflected those areas of inquiry and included scholars from prestigious Hong Kong institutions. Isaacs moderated “Frontiers in Science,” which featured David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor at UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering; Robert Grossman, professor of Medicine and Chief Informatics Officer at the Center for Research Informatics. Grossman is also a senior fellow at the Computation Institute and the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology. The panel also featured Ka Yee Lee, professor of Chemistry and director at the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Chi Wu, the Wei Lun Professor of Chemistry at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, joined UChicago scholars for a wide-ranging discussion on quantum technologies, big data, molecular medicine and the science that is creating the next generation of materials. The panelists reflected on how big science challenges require collaboration across borders and disciplines.

“UChicago scholars engage with ever more complex and global questions, making this support of their scholarship and the space for learning and collaboration increasingly important,” said Lee, who is also chair of the Faculty Advisory Board at the new center. “Our goal is for the center to be an intellectual destination that expands opportunities for collaboration with researchers and students representing a wide array of institutions in Hong Kong and the region.”

Edward L. Shaughnessy, the Lorraine J. & Herrlee G. Creel Distinguished Service Professor in Early Chinese Studies, delivered keynote remarks entitled “Herrlee Creel Visits the Confucian Temple: The University of Chicago and the Study of Early Chinese Cultural History.” Shaughnessy’s remarks concentrated on the long history of collaboration between UChicago scholars and their counterparts in China, starting from the renowned scholar Herrlee Creel, AB’26, AM’27, PhD’29, who taught at the University of Chicago from 1936 to 1974, and his peers in China.

Zimmer delivered an update on the University’s overall global engagement to the audience of alumni, Hong Kong scholars and students. Kumar provided details on the Executive MBA program, which relocated to Hong Kong in 2013 and began classes last autumn.

“An important part of our mission and vision is to support Hong Kong, its people and its goals through the quality of our academic and entrepreneurship programs. Accessible ideas and intellectual contributions will be provided through public events and collaborations with Hong Kong universities and other institutions,” said Kumar. “We envision a busy, intellectually vibrant Center that hosts an array of world-class activities, anchored prominently by our Executive MBA Program.”

Dali Yang, faculty director of the Center in Beijing and professor of Political Science, moderated the discussion titled “Human Capital and Development.” The panel featured Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and recipient of the 2000 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Heckman was joined by Sian Beilock, the University’s Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives and professor in Psychology; as well as Cameron Campbell, Associate Dean for Research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and Y.C. Richard Wong, chair of Economics at the University of Hong Kong.

University’s engagement around the world

The Center in Hong Kong is an important addition to UChicago’s international presence. Hong Kong joins the University’s Center in Delhi, opened in 2014; Center in Beijing, opened in 2010; and the Center in Paris, opened in 2004, in bringing together researchers and students to collaborate across the academic spectrum. Hong Kong is the first University of Chicago global center that houses a Chicago Booth School of Business Executive MBA program as well as other University programs.

Chicago Booth also has a campus in London, where UChicago faculty teach in degree–granting programs, and a Chicago Booth Center in Singapore. The University’s Oriental Institute has a presence in Luxor, Egypt, founded in 1924 and known as “Chicago House,” which documents ancient Egyptian inscriptions and works with Egyptian scholars on conservation, restoration, and site management. The University’s UChicago Research Bangladesh includes medical and research facilities in Dhaka and throughout Bangladesh that serve more than 100,000 people. The University’s global engagement also extends to hundreds of programs and initiatives in more than 40 countries and on all seven continents. 

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