China trip focuses on education

Sarah McKenzie

In preparation for his trip to the Far East, University President Mark Yudof plans to brush up on his Chinese and even print up a few of his business cards in the native language.
Yudof will depart Friday morning on a six-day trek with Gov. Arne Carlson to China to drum up support for Minnesota businesses and to meet with education officials in the country.
Meetings with China’s President Jiang Zemin, cabinet officials and presidents of the most prestigious Chinese universities will highlight the trip. More importantly, it will emphasize the University’s already strong relationship with the nation, which has been mostly closed to the world.
On Saturday in Beijing, the University’s delegation will join the governor for four days before returning home. Carlson’s trip will last two weeks, with stops in Amsterdam, China, Singapore and New Zealand.
Taxpayers will foot the bill for Carlson’s trip, estimated to cost between $75,000 and $90,000. The University will pay $6,740 in airfare, lodging and food for Yudof and other officials to accompany the governor.
“Part of (the trip) is symbolic,” Yudof said. “And part of it is to support the state.”
Yudof’s trip comes one year after former president Nils Hasselmo led a University delegation to three Asian countries. Yudof said he is excited to “follow in Hasselmo’s footsteps.”
Jay Novak, a state trade and economic development commissioner who is also making the trip, said it will serve primarily as an “awareness builder” in education and business.
On the trip, Yudof wants to strengthen the University’s relationship with China’s Academy of Science and Technology and School of Aeronautics.
Vice Premier Lei Lanqing, the highest educational official in China, is scheduled to meet with Yudof and Carlson. Lei heads up the education department, which is responsible for more than 250 million Chinese students.
Currently, the University hosts more than 1,200 Chinese students, more than any other college in the nation. Nearly 300 University faculty actively collaborate with more than 150 Chinese institutions as well.
Yudof said he plans to discuss establishing more global exchange programs for the Institute of Technology and Carlson School of Management with leaders of various Chinese universities.
David Pui, director of the China Center and mechanical engineering professor, Judy Yudof and the president’s Chief of Staff Tonya Moten Brown will join the president on the trip.
Pui, born in Hong Kong, studied at the University in the 1970s. He has been a faculty member since 1984.
He said the Chinese exchange program has had a rich history since 1914. Yudof will honor more than 100 University alumni, many of whom were part of the program, in a special banquet early in the trip.
Pui said Yudof’s arrival will be highly anticipated by former University students living in China.
Many Chinese alumni see their academic advisors as “second parents,” and their alma maters as “second homes,” Pui said.
He said the University is highly regarded in China — almost as well-known as the Ivy League schools.
“President Yudof’s visit will continue to build bridges between loyal alumni (in China) and their alma mater, the U of M,” Pui said.
Next week, Senior Vice President for the Academic Health Center Frank Cerra will preside over the University. Normally, that job would fall to Bob Bruininks, but the executive vice president and provost will be on a separate trip.