Duke Kunshan’s Advisory Board, which comprises global leaders from multiple industries, enjoyed a “meeting of minds” with the school’s pioneering undergraduate students at its sixth annual meeting this year.
In a break from the closed-door approach of the past, student interaction was a key theme of this year’s gathering on campus, which took place on April 26 and 27.
About 100 students from 30 countries taking part in the university’s International Admitted Students Experience attended a welcome dinner for the board, with a dynamic talent show performed by members of the inaugural undergraduate Class of 2022.
At the event, Rick Wagoner, the board’s chair and former chairman and CEO of General Motors, introduced his fellow members as well as spoke on his own experiences in an effort to encourage the admitted students to actively engage in cross-cultural exchanges and explore and understand China.
Duke President Vincent Price also called on those young people to “make Duke Kunshan your academic home” and to help form the university’s cultures and traditions.
At a formal meeting, Chancellor Feng Youmei thanked the board for the important role it has played since the founding of Duke Kunshan.
“Board members are the designers of the school, mentors to students, fundraisers and contributors, quality controllers, our partners and role models,” she said. “We hope to benefit from your advice and guidance on how Duke Kunshan can live up to expectations and make a strong impact in knowledge transfer, service to society and talent development.”
Price also spoke on the reciprocal relationship between Duke and Duke Kunshan, explaining that while Duke continues to provide multifaceted support to Duke Kunshan, the pedagogical innovation, global research, and faculty and student exchanges arising from this partnership are making Duke much stronger.
For the “meeting of minds” session, Advisory Board members and students from the Class of 2022 worked in groups of six to share ideas and insights on innovation and entrepreneurship, skills for the future and collaborative problem solving.
The high-achieving advisers said they were deeply impressed by the undergraduate students’ agile thinking, thirst for knowledge and willingness to embrace different cultures.
Board members Mingkang Liu, Victor Fung, Natalie Lichtenstein and Yichen Zhang also gave talks on lifelong learning during the exchange.
“The ultimate in communication is listening. You don’t just listen with your ears; you listen with your whole body. You listen by actively participating, not just sitting there taking notes,” said Fung, group chairman of Fung Group. “You have to probe and ask questions. That’s a part of listening.”
Liu Mingkang, former chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, called for a “change from the heart” to ensure innovations bring positive change to people’s lives, while Lichtenstein, inaugural chief counsel (2014-16) to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, urged students not to lose focus and to explore all avenues to achieve their goals.
“Diversity brings us together. On the other hand, it can also make it difficult to reach consensus,” said Zhang, chairman and CEO of CITIC Capital Holdings. “That’s precisely the point of living in a globalized world. Having this sort of education will help you know the world and best prepare you for it.”
In a separate session, Executive Vice Chancellor Denis Simon presided over a discussion on Sino-American relations and the challenges confronting Duke Kunshan.
Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, and a new member of the Advisory Board, said that while the evolving relationship between China and the United States presents challenges, the momentum of bilateral cultural and educational exchanges remains unabated, helping to deepen integration and understanding.
This is exactly where Duke and Duke Kunshan can play an impactful role, he said.
Fung added that, as we move toward a multipolar world, “we need to think more clearly and creatively about the new global governance structure, and who the leaders of the future will be. That’s the real mission of our university.”
Board members also suggested Duke Kunshan set itself apart in a competitive environment by having a clear focus and finding its unique role in the global environment. In the course of rapid development, it is essential the joint-venture university remains forward-looking.
As the discussion drew to a close, members reiterated their confidence in the future of Duke Kunshan and their strong support to its continued development.
“This has been a wonderful experience, and I’ve really enjoyed talking with the pioneering students from the Class of 2022,” said Dede Nickerson, Producer and advisor to Netflix China. “As members of the Advisory Board, it’s important we are connected to the university and provide students help with their careers and other opportunities.
“I’m excited to work with other members in helping spread the word further about Duke Kunshan University.”