Asia + UW 4ever

The university builds on international connections

Chancellor Rebecca Blank poses with alumni at the Shanghai Founders’ Day in front of a photo backdrop of Bascom Hall.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank poses with alumni at the Shanghai Founders’ Day in front of a photo backdrop of Bascom Hall. Timothy Burkhart

UW–Madison claims upward of 6,000 international students from more than 100 countries, but the majority of them hail from Asia.

A desire to celebrate and build on ties in the region led to a May trip that featured a contingent of UW, Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA), and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation colleagues. The group included Chancellor Rebecca Blank, WFAA president and CEO Mike Knetter, and Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) chief alumni officer and executive director Sarah Schutt. They visited several cities for an array of events such as Founders’ Day celebrations, company tours, and small-group and one-on-one meetings, making stops in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, and Singapore.

“There were multiple forms of engagement on multiple fronts,” says Schutt, “with many potential outcomes that were good for the UW.” Schutt says that historically, the UW began accepting students from China well before many of its peer institutions, so the university has a longstanding relationship with several Chinese universities. The first Chinese students arrived in 1907. Currently, half of the university’s international students — some 53 percent — come from the greater China region.

“The younger alums tell us what an advantage they have because the UW is so well known there,” says Schutt. “They are incredibly appreciative of their UW education and want to maintain those relationships and stay involved.” This engagement was reflected in double the normal attendance at the five Founders’ Days the group attended.

UW–Madison has more than 60 agreements with various Chinese universities, says Lora Klenke, WFAA’s managing director for international alumni relations, and an average of 150 UW students per year participate in study-abroad programs in China.

A highlight of the trip was signing a strategic partnership with Nanjing University that will help broaden the scope of research and faculty and student exchanges. The UW signed a similar memorandum of understanding with Peking University. UW representatives also welcomed incoming Badger freshmen at events in Beijing and Shanghai and attended conferences on intellectual property, literature, and higher education.

Published in the Fall 2019 issue


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