International Educator - May/June 2012 - 120
steps to do something with the old part of the campus, and all those interesting, historical buildings. I noticed more changes every day, so I got more interested in them,” Oi says. She began to develop “a vision of what this place would be”—a “home away from home” for Stanford faculty and students, who “could come from the airport, go in and sit down, and get to work” with a “lean, core staff ” to provide assistance. “People like me were going to go anyway, and I knew there was a lot of interest in China, but some people were hesitant, particularly if they didn’t speak Chinese,” Oi says. “It was a little risky to say ‘I’m going to go to China and do some work for a while,’ and a lot of people wouldn’t do it. I thought if we could make it less scary, people would take advantage of the opportunity,” she says. When the quarter was over, and Oi and Walder returned to Palo Alto, where they presented the idea to Blacker. “He seemed intrigued by the whole thing,” Oi says. “They said they thought there was an interesting opportunity there, to build out what we had there in some exciting ways,” recalls Blacker. The Spogli Institute, where Oi is a fellow, would become the administrative driver and Syracuse University coordinator of the Institute English Language project that developed— a Stanford Center NAFSA Directory at PKU—spearheading it as a x 3.5" 4.75" university-wide resource.
Stanford would be the only outside entity to have a facility like that on the PKU campus and “that turned out to be very important. We would work closely with them to create joint programs and teaching opportunities and faculty collaborations. It’s a new model for them and for us and that’s why I have been so involved in it and excited about it,” Blacker exclaims. Oi points out that the University of Chicago and Harvard University also have “beautiful” centers related to other institutions in China, but unlike Stanford’s, they are in off-campus, commercial buildings.
creating a Plan
In February 2007 Oi and Blacker began developing a plan for the Center that Blacker took to Stanford President John Hennessy. “I guess we were convincing enough that he decided to explore it more,” says Oi. “He gave us permission to proceed with the planning but not the execution. We took another 18 months until we had a plan that we thought would pass muster,” reports Blacker. During that time, they followed Hennessy’s direction to speak to the deans of each of Stanford’s seven major schools. They all surprised Blacker and Oi by agreeing with what they were proposing. “We were really surprised at the level of both interest and enthusiasm for this from the
For the past decade, students from China have accounted for the largest number of Stanford’s foreign graduate students. Stanford and PKU have had a strong collaboration for more than 30 years, including exchanges of faculty and students, joint courses, research projects, and conferences.
deans,” says Blacker. “We were shocked. I’m a political scientist, and had never set foot in some of those schools,” says Oi. She was “pleasantly shocked,” she says, to learn “how much collaboration and activity there already was in these schools with colleagues in China. I had no idea that there was so much going on.” That broad support across the different schools, says Oi, was what convinced Hennessy “that this was a good idea, and something Stanford should do.” In March 2007, formal planning began to establish the Center, Stanford’s first all-university resource outside the United States. Seven months later, Hennessy and PKU President Xu Zhihong signed a letter of intent, followed by a visit to Stanford by PKU Chairman Min Weifang for planning discussions with Hennessy, Oi, Walder, and other Stanford faculty.
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Financing the Venture
The Stanford Board of Trustees did not have to give the plan formal approval, says Blacker, as long as the cost of the project was kept within $5 million, the most Hennessy could authorize without board involvement. Hennessy made clear that existing Stanford funding could not be used for the project, so money would have to be raised for constructing and outfitting a new building to house the Center on the PKU campus.
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