In Shanghai, China, it is midnight when Wake Foresters walk across Hearn Plaza at noon. But a 12-hour time difference and 7,600 miles were small obstacles to overcome for a group of Wake Forest faculty and staff who traveled to Shanghai to explore new opportunities.
“We wanted to introduce Wake Forest to China as we look for opportunities to create educational programs in the future,” said Linda McKinnish Bridges, associate dean of admissions. “Not only opportunities for students from China to learn about Wake Forest, but opportunities for Wake Forest students to study abroad or find careers in China.”
The centerpiece of the visit was a concert by music professor Peter Kairoff for an audience of 300 at Dulwich College-Shanghai. After the concert, Wake Forest hosted a Chinese banquet for Wake alumni, the 39 students from China who will join the class of 2016 in August and their families, business leaders and officials from the Yangpu district, where Shanghai is located. The event was made possible by generous corporate sponsors Lenovo, Boston Scientific, Kilpatrick Stockton, Steinway, CNA USA, and Edison Learning. Kairoff also held a master class for about 30 highly attentive listeners the following day.
“I was especially struck by the enthusiastic and appreciative audience,” Kairoff said. “There is a real passion for Western classical music in China, especially piano music. There is also a real hunger among young Chinese musicians to learn the subtleties of performance style and interpretation.”
The extended visit gave university officials such as Carolyn Couch, associate director in the Office of Personal and Career Development, the time to explore future internship opportunities for Wake Forest students who want to work in Shanghai. Ann Cunningham, an associate professor in the Education department, sought the beginnings of relationships with schools in China interested in professional development for their teachers and possibly hosting Wake Forest education students to study abroad.
Jay Davenport, assistant vice president for development, was among the group that went to China and hosted a dinner for alumni and the new students from China.
“We had a great mix of alumni there. Some are U.S. citizens who live and work in China, others are Chinese citizens who graduated from Wake Forest,” Davenport said. “It was a chance for us to reach out to our alumni and for our new students from China to talk with Wake Foresters before classes begin. ”
Bridges not only took the time to meet with officials from Shanghai, where many of the new first-year students live, but also to visit a new student at home with his family.
“This may be the only time their families will be able to interact with a representative from Wake Forest,” said Bridges. “With China’s one child policy, these parents are entrusting their one and only son or daughter to us for four years. Many of these parents will never visit our campus since we are so far away.”
For Kairoff, the event struck just the right note.
“There is so much energy in China right now,” he said. “The opportunities to make connections in the commercial, educational and artistic fields should not be underestimated. Having Chinese students on campus enriches the experience of all our students, and being able to expand the Wake Forest family deeper into China is a fantastic opportunity.”