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2020 Year in Review

Cornell China Center: 2020 in Review

2020 has been a year like no other—filled with unexpected challenges and suffering, but also many successes and proud moments. With the support of colleagues in Ithaca, the Cornell China Advisory Board, students and their families, alumni, and friends, the Cornell China Center served as a valuable bridge between Cornell University and China.

A timeline of important events follows. In brief, in 2020, the Cornell China Center:

Hosted 26 events at the new center space in Beijing, despite being closed from February to August. These events brought 730 students, alumni, and partners to the center. An additional 500 people attended the Second Annual Cornell-China Forum, in-person and virtually, on December 11-12, 2020.

Created vital student-facing programming, including orientation events for remote and Study Away students, and multiple career fairs with Chinese giants such as Tencent, E Fund, Xiaomi, ByteDance, and Tesla (China).

Increased the visibility of Cornell in China by negotiating prominent roles for Cornell in the Global MOOC Alliance and the US-China University Presidents’ Forum, and by hosting Ivy China Center directors to discuss the future of US educational institutions in China. Further increasing the visibility of Cornell in China, the Cornell China Center WeChat account, used to communicate Cornell-China news to Chinese audiences, reached 5,731 subscribers. In 2020, the Cornell China Center posted 34 WeChat posts with an average of 3,900 reads per post.

Served as a liaison between Cornell-in-Ithaca and Cornell-in-China, helping to negotiate Study Away agreements and placements, visiting Study Away and remote cohorts, and coordinating with alumni to deliver care packages to students in China. Also worked to help secure personal protective equipment (PPE) during March – April, and to navigate COVID-related information exchanges between Cornell and China.

Expanded the rich tradition of research collaboration between Cornell and researchers in Chinese institutions, exploring new research partnerships and implementing three research competitions: the China Innovation Grant program and two new joint seed funds between Cornell and Shanghai Jiao Tong and Zhejiang Universities.

Offered a Cornell “home away from home” for students, staff, faculty, alumni, and visitors. In addition to event programming, the new Cornell China Center hosted 23 visits (for 95 visitors) in the Beijing space.

What we were able to achieve in 2020, a growing audience, and exciting new partnerships and opportunities are making us very much look forward to the upcoming year. The Cornell China Center thanks you for your attention and support.

We wish you a healthy, happy, and productive 2021!

Highlights of the Cornell China Center’s efforts and activities during the year 2020

January 2-6, 2020: During his visit to Beijing, Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Business Dean Mark Nelson held multiple events at the Cornell China Center (Beijing) including alumni meetings and an information session for applicants and prospective students.

January 2020: The Cornell China Center (Beijing) hosted several events organized by various Cornell units and co-hosted a housewarming event with the Cornell Beijing Alumni Club before temporarily moving operations virtually due to COVID-19 until August 2020.

February 3, 2020: The Cornell China Center (Ithaca) hosted a campus visit for the President of Milstein China Charlie Wang and facilitated his meeting with Dr. Liren Zheng, the curator of Cornell University’s Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia. With over 740,000 volumes on China, Japan, and Korea, as well as comprehensive online resources, the Wason Collection fosters East Asian studies at Cornell. This unmatched collection started with the donation of 350 Chinese-language books to Cornell University Library by Hu Shih and friends in 1912.

February 11, 2020: The Cornell China Center (Ithaca) and the China and Asia-Pacific Studies Program co-organized a “Roundtable on Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): Public Health, Politics and Global Perspective” to discuss global uncertainties surrounding coronavirus. It was the first COVID-themed roundtable on campus and featured a multidisciplinary panel of experts from the fields of immunology, history, health care policy, public health, and government.

February 28, 2020: The Cornell China Center (Ithaca) invited a second round of Cornell China Innovation Grants from collaborative teams to develop innovative research projects with far-reaching impact in and for China. This cycle of the grant program prioritized the themes of health, sustainability, food safety, and cities and the built environment.

March-April 2020: The Cornell China Center worked to assist with the procurement of personal protective equipment and ventilators and to coordinate a large volume of donations from Cornell China Advisory Board members, Chinese alumni, students, parents, and friends to support Cornell Weill Medical Center in New York City as it faced treating a dire number of COVID-19 patients with limited medical supplies.

April 10, 2020: The Executive Committee of the Cornell Board of Trustees passed a resolution of gratitude thanking the determined group of Cornellians in and with connections to China that helped to provide crucial equipment and supplies for medical professionals at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca.

May 2020: The Cornell China Center awarded thirteen grants totaling $168,190 for China research to Cornell faculty, mostly to collaborate on joint research with university partners in China. Five projects were funded through the Shanghai Jiao Tong University-Cornell University Joint Seed Fund, four projects through the Zhejiang University-Cornell University Joint Seed Fund, and four projects through the Cornell China Center-Cornell East Asia Program Research Fund.

May 29, 2020: In response to executive actions in the United States, Cornell Vice Provost for International Affairs Wendy Wolford released a statement in support of Cornell's Chinese and international community: “Cornell University is strengthened by its outstanding Chinese students, distinguished researchers, and dedicated alumni. A strong international student body is a crucial part of the education of future leaders and global citizens, and cross-cultural understanding is increasingly critical for addressing major challenges that humanity faces in today’s world….” The statement was posted by the Cornell China Center on its WeChat channel and quickly got close to 70,000 views.

May-August, 2020: The Cornell China Center played a critical communication role in the development of Cornell’s innovative new Study Away program. The strong working relationship with partner universities in China that the center cultivated through supporting Cornell leadership and faculty research collaborations during the center’s past two years of operations paved the way for a highly collaborative process, creating a series of new programs focused on student needs.

June 30, 2020: Cornell announced the Study Away program for the Fall 2020 semester as a residential option for international students facing COVID-19-related visa or travel issues preventing them from returning to Ithaca.

September 2, 2020: Cornell began its fall semester and physically opened its campus to 19,000 students. Many international students were not able to return to Ithaca due to visa challenges and a travel ban, but most continued at Cornell through distance learning. While the number of Chinese student-visa holders in the U.S. fell 25% nationwide between January and September of 2020, Cornell thankfully managed to maintain 95% of its Chinese student enrollment of the prior year through a combination of Study Abroad options, strong student support, and detailed COVID safety procedures. In the fall, a total of 462 international students were living and learning at 11 Study Away locations around the world, many of them at seven universities in China.

September 26: The Cornell China Center (Beijing) hosted its first large in-person event after re-opening by welcoming an enthusiastic group of Cornell students in China, including students from the Study Away program at three universities in Beijing (Tsinghua University, Peking University, and China Agricultural University) as well as students distance learning from home. Over the course of multiple events, the center space became a Cornell “home” for students away from Ithaca.

October, 2020: The Cornell China Center assisted Alumni Affairs & Development, Cornell alumni clubs in Beijing and Shanghai, and alumni volunteers in Shenzhen to deliver Study Away care packages to students in China.

October 13, 2020: The Cornell China Center supported the participation of Cornell leadership in the China-US University Presidents’ Online Forum co-hosted by Tsinghua University and Yale University.

October 30, 2020: The Cornell China Center hosted a visit for leaders of top US university China centers including the Harvard Center Shanghai, Stanford Beijing Center, Yale Center Beijing, University of Chicago Beijing Center, Princeton China Center, and University of Notre Dame Beijing Center.

October-November, 2020: Cornell China Center Director Ying Hua made visits to the Chinese partner universities currently hosting Cornell students to share greetings from Ithaca with the students and to collect student feedback to refine the program and discuss lessons learned with collaborators. In addition, the Cornell China Center continued to play an important communications role by connecting students in China with Cornell units and resources to address student needs throughout the semester.

October-December, 2020: In addition to facilitating university-level communications, the Cornell China Center organized multiple student career exploration events and company information sessions. These hybrid events gave students the opportunity for face-to-face interactions while also enabling broader access through Zoom. Director Ying Hua and Manager of Cornell in China Peter Wen worked with Tencent, Xiaomi, Tesla, E Fund, and ByteDance to organize these opportunities. Such events will continue to be organized for students in the spring of 2021 with an expanded list of sectors and companies. The Cornell China Center is also connecting current students with alumni for career exploration.

November 3, 2020: The Cornell China Center held an online dialogue between Cornell students highly passionate about animation and game design and WANG Xin, Co-Director and Executive Producer of the big hit cartoon movie JIANG Zi Ya, who shared with students his experience of study abroad, working as the Cinematic Character Supervisor at Blizzard Entertainment, and movie creation.

November 13, 2020: Cornell China Center Director Ying Hua participated as a panelist in the Harvard Center Shanghai’s 10th anniversary celebration event, “Global Education Outlook.”

November-December, 2020: The Cornell China Center successfully advocated for as many exchange student spots for Cornell Chinese students as possible at partner universities, enabling Cornell to continue Study Away at a similar capacity in the spring semester as in the fall. Feedback collected from both students and partner universities was used to further improve the program jointly with Global Cornell and the Office of Global Learning.

November-December, 2020: The Cornell China Center supported leaders from both the university and eCornell (Cornell’s online education platform) through the communication and decision-making processes that preceded joining the Global MOOC Alliance initiated by Tsinghua University. The alliance was launched on December 11th, 2020 with founding members from 17 universities (including Cornell as a key partner) and 3 online education platforms from 14 countries and 6 continents.

December 10-11, 2020: The Cornell-China Forum—the Cornell China Center’s signature annual event—was livestreamed this year, using the center’s Beijing space as a studio. The 2020 Forum focused on the future of Sino-US education exchange and collaboration, exploration and reflection during the pandemic, alumni career development, and future-oriented design education. Key panels explored the topics of global educational, select legal topics in China, public health, design education, and the future of work, and a student panel brought together current Cornell students to discuss “Our Year 2020.” E Fund provided valuable support to this event.  Cornell China Advisory Board members Kenneth Jarrett, Liming Chen, and Gang Yu participated as panelists. Through hosting this annual event, the center hopes to promote in-depth dialogue and collaboration between Cornell University and leading scholars, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and innovators.

December 26, 2020: Cornell China Center Director Ying Hua participated as a panelist in the Yale Beijing Center event, “Why is Studying Abroad Still Important?” to discuss the value of study abroad in this age of uncertainty.