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U.Va. Delegation Cuts Ribbon on New Office at Peking University

November 2, 2009 — University of Virginia officials, including President John T. Casteen III, gathered Friday in Beijing to open a new office for the College of Arts & Sciences at Peking University.

The office is on the fifth floor of the Leo KoGuan Complex of Peking University, directly next to new law and management schools on the east side of the downtown campus. Casteen called the ribbon-cutting a beginning toward a very productive collaboration.

The establishment of the College's office in Beijing is the first step toward a partnership between U.Va. and Peking University involving undergraduate and graduate programs. Peking University is one of Asia's top research universities and was created to be China's first national university. Today it remains one of the most competitive in China as well, with only 0.1 percent of applicants gaining admission.

"The College's intent in creating a physical presence in Beijing includes – but also goes beyond – scholarly collaboration and exchange in China or East Asia related fields," said Meredith Jung-En Woo, U.Va's dean of Arts & Sciences. "China is a global player in cutting-edge scientific research, and the College is interested in collaborating with Peking University and other universities in China."

Casteen noted that one quarter of global research and development funding in science today comes from the Chinese government.

After the ribbon-cutting, Casteen and Jianhua Lin, executive vice president and provost of Peking University, signed a memorandum of agreement designed to facilitate the exchange of faculty and students. They also conducted a public discussion of the various possibilities for collaboration between their two universities.

The U.Va. delegation, which included Gowher Rizvi, vice provost for international programs, and Dudley Doane, director of summer and special academic programs and the International Studies Office, then broke into groups to discuss research synergy between the two institutions.

Woo and James Aylor, dean of U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science, also discussed research possibilities in environmental engineering with the Peking's dean of the College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Peking has the finest facility for the study of air pollution in China; one of the top strengths of U.Va.'s Engineering School is water filtration, which is related to pollution.

Woo said she was also seeking opportunities for pre-med students, who normally do not have the opportunity to study abroad due to course requirements that keep them in Charlottesville. Woo said she would like to be able to offer them an opportunity to study at Peking University or Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, which is modeled after Cal Tech.

"We believe that the possibilities for scientific and other collaborations are endless between the College and China, and the office is a small toehold to making that possible," Woo said.

After Beijing, the U.Va. delegation headed to Shanghai, where on Tuesday, Casteen will give the keynote address at the International Conference on World-Class Universities.

— Kendall Wallace

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