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Students Will Study Green Technology in China

Gift from Wanxiang America Corporation to fund new program

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August 25, 2011 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
Produced by Matt Paolelli
EVANSTON, Ill. --- A group of 12 to 20 Northwestern University students will travel each of the next five years to China to study the development of clean energy technologies in China, thanks to a gift from the Wanxiang America Corporation, based in Elgin, Ill.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley was among the dignitaries who participated in a ceremony on Northwestern’s campus Wednesday (Aug. 24), marking the signing of an agreement between Northwestern and Wanxiang that will enable undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty members, to gain experience with green technology issues in China.

Daley talked about the critical role that universities and their graduates always have played in addressing the most pressing issues confronting the world, particularly citing Northwestern. The Wanxiang Fellows Program, he said, is a wonderful example of how universities can involve students in global issues and further the China/U.S. relationship.  

“We have a moral obligation to have more of our students study in China,” he said. “This is the only way we can confront many of the issues that can’t be confronted by government.”

The Wanxiang Fellows will spend a month in Beijing studying Chinese language, culture and history in a Northwestern international development program and then spend two weeks at the Wanxiang Polytechnic College in Hangzhou, China. The program at Wanxiang will focus on sustainable clean energy technology. Wanxiang is committing up to $1.5 million in support over the next five years for this program, which begins in the summer of 2012.

Daley is the co-chair of the China/U.S. “100,000 Strong Initiative,” a national effort designed to dramatically increase the number of American students studying in China. His vision related to China and the new Wanxiang fellowships was cited by others at the ceremony.

Besides Daley, the attendees of the signing ceremony included:

  • Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago Guoqiang Yang
  • President of Wanxiang America Corporation Pin Ni
  • Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and key faculty and administrative leaders of the University

Guoqiang Yang referred to the Wanxiang fellowships as a great outgrowth of the “100,000 Strong Initiative,” which, he said, ultimately “will benefit the world.”

President Schapiro, who has traveled to China once a year for many years, talked about the Wanxiang fellowship program as an economist’s dream, a mutually advantageous trade that involves the not-for-profit and private sectors and is good for Northwestern, the U.S. and China. 

“The Wanxiang Fellows Program will provide Northwestern students valuable experience in China while exposing them to new technologies in a growing area of the world,” said Mark Ratner, the Morrison Professor of Chemistry and the co-director of the Initiative for the Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN). “We very much appreciate the generous commitment of Wanxiang that will enable us to launch this new program.”

According to Dévora Grynspan, director of International Program Development at Northwestern, “The Wanxiang Fellows Program will support the design of a new program for students interested in environmental issues, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.  These students are often underrepresented in international programs because of the lack of professionally relevant opportunities abroad. The Wanxiang Fellows Program is an important step in addressing this need.”

“Both the United States and China have a lot to offer,” said Wanxiang America Corporation President Pin Ni, “so we are pleased that there’s an increasing interest among American students to explore and learn from China. It’s really an honor for our company to introduce Northwestern students to Chinese culture and to explore clean energy science together.”

Wanxiang was founded by Dr. Lu Guanqiu, who is regarded as a legendary entrepreneur in China for taking $500 in start-up capital in 1969 to create a farm tool repair shop and transforming it into one of the largest non-government-owned companies in China. The company is the country’s largest automotive components manufacturer, and a conglomerate with more than $12 billion (USD) in revenue covering businesses including financial services, clean energies, agricultural products, international trading, natural resources, real estate, private equity and venture capital investment, and other areas. In America, Wanxiang has 28 manufacturing plants, with $2 billion (USD) sales.