Penn students and faculty hoping to expand their global horizons will soon have more means of doing so in China.
The Penn Wharton China Center is currently open for business with limited facilities and capabilities.
The Center will facilitate research related to China and serve as a means to distribute knowledge.
The University is currently in the process of paying deposits for a five-year lease for a location in accordance with Chinese capital regulations. The full location is tentatively set to open in January 2015 in the Bejing Central Business District and will be the University’s first physical presence in China, said Faculty Director of the Center John Zhang .
“Competition is global today. You have to be more world-savvy and globally aware,” Zhang said. “In the Compact 20/20, we want to have more global engagement and the Penn Wharton China Center is just one of those efforts.”
The center will be a hub for students and faculty to conduct research in the area. The Center will also provide resources to students and professors doing research about China while on Penn’s campus, which can be difficult.
“The China Center will do a lot of things that can’t be done well here and that’s why we need a physical facility in the country,” he said.
The facility will also include classrooms, event halls, faculty centers and study spaces and will allow researchers the ability to easily share their research findings in Asia.
“With a center in China and people that are there every day and in close contact, it will be easier for us to know what is the right information and right channel to disseminate our research,“ Zhang added.
The Center will serve as a means of expanding and supporting global educational experiences. Zhang mentioned the need for increased exposure to China as part of a Penn education.
“There are lots of students who want to do internships in China and want to find a job [there],” Zhang said. “Providing those kinds of services from [Penn] are not very feasible and we need people who can maintain contact with different companies to help students locate internships and career opportunities.”
The Center will also play a role in the admissions process by facilitating contact between prospective Chinese students and the University. Zhang said that the Center would play a role in identifying outstanding students in the country and putting them in touch with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
President Amy Gutmann said that the academic freedom of students would be maintained at the Center. “Because it is an independent wholly-owned foreign entity, we will ensure academic freedom,” she said. “That is a condition of our operating there.”
While Zhang stressed the importance of academic freedom to the University and Wharton, he acknowledged that the Center had no control over anything going on inside China and that the Center was not in a position to advise the Chinese government.
“The Penn Wharton China Center has a mission that we want to carry out ... we need to focus on the things that will help Penn and Wharton be a force for good in China,” he said.
The Wharton China Center will also serve as a hub for all members of the Penn community from around the world. Zhang noted significant alumni support for the Center.
“China is quickly becoming a wealthy country,” he said. “ A lot of resources will be coming out of China and we want to position ourselves to help our alumni and Wharton to benefit from that.”