Darden Builds Bridges Between U.Va. and China

July 31, 2009 — Education builds bridges, and the Darden School of Business is leading an effort to create new avenues for collaboration between the University of Virginia and the People's Republic of China.

This spring, Darden delivered a custom Executive Education program to senior-level Chinese government officials selected by China's State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs. A SAFEA delegation, led by Deputy Director Sun Zhaohua, visited U.Va. last week.

"The trip is an expression of good will," Colin Winter, director of program development for Darden Executive Education, said earlier. "The SAFEA delegation will tour the University and will meet with Darden and University representatives to look for further synergies."

SAFEA promotes continued cooperation between the U.S. and China in areas such as education, technology and environmental protection through the exchange of faculty experts and participation in executive education programs. In 2008, SAFEA recruited 480,000 experts to work in China and sent 30,000 Chinese professionals abroad for training. In April, 15 Chinese government officials attended the Darden custom "China Payments Education Program," sponsored by the payment services company, Visa.

"Visa researched approximately 20 executive education programs in the U.S. and selected three finalists," Winter said. "I believe Darden was chosen due to the high ranking of our executive education programs, our faculty expertise in a broad range of key program topics, our past experience working in a translated learning environment, and our ability to draw additional teaching talent from the wider University community."

The goal of the three-week program was to educate the Chinese government delegates on best practices among leading global economies regarding payment systems. Topics included setting and regulating financial policies, managing financial risk, developing a payment infrastructure to foster competition and market efficiencies, exploring consumer protection laws, and controlling and managing bad debt.

The program kicked off in New York City, where the participants experienced one of the world's largest financial and commercial centers and met with payment industry executives. They then spent 11 days at Darden studying consumers, markets, financial institutions, the payment industry and the role of governments.

"There was a key cultural component to the program," said David Newkirk, CEO of Darden Executive Education. "Not only did we teach them about business; we taught them about America."

Classes included "Consumers' Attitudes Towards Money" with Darden professor Ron Wilcox, and the "History of American Financial Institutions" with Darden professor Frank Warnock. Larry Sabato, professor of politics in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and one of the county's leading political observers, addressed "American Politics."

The Chinese delegates visited Monticello, and the program concluded in Washington, D.C., where they toured the White House and met with David Lipton, an adviser to President Barack Obama, and Larry Summers, director of the National Economic Council. They spent time at the World Bank and met with various government officials at the Federal Reserve and Treasury.

"We moved the dialogue and experiences beyond macro-economics," Newkirk said. "Darden's holistic view of education helps people from other cultures develop a deeper understanding of the financial, social and political context in which U.S. companies operate."

Over the next couple of years, Darden expects to run the program for two more SAFEA delegations. While in the U.S., SAFEA will visit its other American partner schools, Georgetown, Stanford and Duke universities.