Just three years ago, NYU Shanghai was established in partnership with East China Normal University. Now a crucial part of NYU’s global reach, the site is preparing to bid adieu to its first graduating class at the end of this academic year.
The Class of 2017 consists of approximately 50 percent Chinese students and 50 percent international students, whom NYU Shanghai Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen praised in their bold step of attending the new university.
“[They are] pioneers who had the courage to attend a school that, when they joined, had not yet come into existence,” Waley-Cohen said.
Former Assistant Professor of Global China Studies and Founding Director of Social Science Andrea Jones-Rooy holds a positive outlook on the effect of NYU Shanghai’s first graduating class on the United States’ diplomatic relations with China.
“I think the cooperation between the U.S. and China on this initiative is incredibly important for relations between the two countries,” Jones-Rooy said. “At a micro — and some would argue more important level — I think the more person to person contact and communication there is between students and faculty and visitors from within China and from without, the stronger our chances as a species to get along.”
Located on two campuses just 20 minutes from downtown, NYU Shanghai is the first of its kind boasting American ties and Chinese government approval.
Waley-Cohen said that the experience of studying in China through a multicultural lens and with a minimum of one semester abroad allows students to approach the world on a holistic level.
“We expect all will continue the distinctive pattern of spending part of their time in Shanghai and part of their time in New York and other nodes of NYU’s global network; and that the patterns of creativity nurtured at NYU Shanghai will, as has already begun to happen, contribute to the betterment of the human condition,” Cohen said.
Other universities from the Western world have partnerships in China and East Asia as well. Johns Hopkins and Nanjing Universities created a graduate international studies center in the late 80s. The University of Singapore partnered with Yale University to launch a four-year undergraduate college, Yale-NUS College.
According to Waley-Cohen, what sets NYU Shanghai apart from many other Western universities in East Asia is an emphasis on liberal arts, as NYUSH offers 17 majors from STEM to the humanities, as well as dual degrees from NYU and local colleges.
Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai Jeffrey Lehman also said in an interview with The Washington Post that despite questions about bringing Western freedoms to a strictly regulated China, academic freedom has not been compromised, as per the agreement with the Chinese government.
Nevertheless, Lehman says that students at NYU Shanghai learn and uphold Chinese customs as a form of respect and gratitude.
“We are inside China,” he told the Post. “So our students are not given some kind of cloak of invisibility or invulnerability.”
NYU Shanghai hopes to expand to 2000 undergraduate students and more than 200 full-time faculty members with graduate and Ph.D. students.
A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, August 28 print edition. Email Farhin Lilywala at [email protected]