Duke Kunshan welcomes its first class in China

Updated: 2014-08-25 11:17

By Zhang Yue in Beijing(China Daily USA)

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After years of preparation, Duke Kunshan University (DKU), a Sino-American college founded by Duke University in the US and Wuhan University in China, welcomed its inaugural class of students in Kunshan, Jiangsu province.

More than 70 students attended a ceremony to mark the occasion wearing a DKU T-shirt that was designed by the university.

"All the teams have been working day and night for this occasion," said Shen Jie, who has been working with DKU for more than a year. "Some US students came with their parents."

The university is located on the west wing of Kunshan, an emerging city in east China's Jiangsu province. It received accreditation from China's Ministry of Education in 2013 and is now governed by an independent board of trustees.

The convocation marked the first day of orientation for students in the DKU Undergraduate Global Learning Semester, the master's of science in Global Health, and master's of science in Medical Physics programs. Students in the master's of management studies program began their classes on Duke's campus in Durham, North Carolina, in July, and will arrive in Kunshan next January.

The university focuses on providing a liberal arts education for its undergraduate and graduate programs.

The welcoming ceremony started with a Kun opera performed by local primary school students. DKU chancellor Liu Jingnan, a former chancellor of Wuhan University, described the 104 students as "true owners of the campus, co-founders and administrators," in his opening remarks.

Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Brown Bullock said the students' future educational experience at DKU will be about "innovative learning, about an innovative community, and about traditional values."

The 70-year-old attended the ceremony wearing her own regalia from Stanford University nearly decades ago. Liu attended the ceremony in chancellor regalia that was tailor made from the US.

Ye Yongling, a 21-year-old undergraduate from Wuhan University, is attending DKU for one semester as part of an exchange program on global health. He spoke at the ceremony on behalf of all Chinese students.

"What deeply impressed me was both chancellors emphasized that we are the owner of the university. And what our professors want is to make our educational experience at DKU better," Ye said.

Ye has done research on malparenting and its harmful effect on children when they reach adolescence. He was admitted to the exchange program because of his outstanding research abilities and fluent English.

"For most of the undergraduate exchange program, their tuition and costs are covered by scholarships," Shen said. "The master's program costs 160, 000 yuan (US$26,000) a year for tuition."

At the moment most of the DKU campus is still in the last stage of construction so students will be taking classes at a five-star hotel in the city center for a couple of weeks. The hotel is also the place that they will be mingling at until the construction is finished.

Patrick Moreton, associate Dean for Graduate Programs at DKU, has been giving lectures about school resources and critical thinking during orientation. In one instance, he asked the new students to break into groups and explain their understanding of critical thinking during the orientation.

"These are the smartest, most courageous students I have ever seen," he said. "What I appreciate most about these young people is that they are willing to take challenges. DKU is such a brand new notion and they are smart enough to see the value here. It's a challenge for me to. I've never taught undergraduate before."

The professor has been living in China for more than 10 years, formerly leading the Executive MBA program at Fudan University in Shanghai.

"I feel that I was reaching a plateau in my teaching life in Shanghai and I wanted to try something new," he said. "It did not take much for my wife and me to decide to move from Shanghai to Kunshan. The idea of this liberal arts education of China and US convergence is brand new and I am excited to be able to contribute."

The construction of the DKU campus is in its final stages of completion, prompting Liu to say: "It takes time to purify the air upon completion of the interior decoration and to beautify outdoor environment."

Dudley Wills, project manager for the DKU campus construction, has spent 18 months at the construction site, where only a handful of staff can talk to him in English.

"Some stones are transferred from the United States," he said. "Other materials such as doorbells for student dormitories were transferred from Germany. The campus is built pretty much with materials from all over the world."

The new semester opens officially on Monday.


 Duke Kunshan welcomes its first class in China

The first class of 60 at Duke Kunshan University, a Sino-American college founded by Duke University in the US and Wuhan University of China, pose for their first class picture. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily USA 08/25/2014 page1)