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Chancellor plants seeds, nurtures strong ties in Asia
From left, UCLA Prof. Hongyin Tao, Susan Pertel Jain, Carol Block, Gene Block, Xu Lin, director of Hanban Beijing; Hanban staff members Cao Diefeng and Zhang Yong, and Zhuang Lailai, associate director, UCLA Confucius Institute.

Chancellor plants seeds, nurtures strong ties in Asia

Gene Block visits China, Hong Kong and Japan to expand the university's relationship in the region and to share the UCLA story.

By Rebecca Kendall
Director of Communications

UCLA Newsroom

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “If you are planning for 10 years, plant trees; if you are planning for 100 years, educate people.”

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block made those comments Dec. 11 at the 6th Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing, where he represented North American universities at a prestigious event attended by more than 1,600 people. He presented to Chinese officials a “friendship tree” – a California redwood sapling. The tree symbolizes strong and steady growth of the cooperation and friendship over the next 10 years and beyond, he explained

If the proverb had a third line, Block told the audience, it might be, “If you’re planning for posterity, build friendships.”

Block was in Beijing mid-way through a two-week trip to Asia, with stops in China, Hong Kong and Japan, where he is planting seeds and sharing the UCLA story with government officials, representatives from influential universities, donors and alumni. The visit is part of UCLA’s efforts to expand its relationship with Asia and further develop mutually beneficial partnerships and promote scientific and academic exchange and collaboration.

Among those attending the Confucius Institute Conference were senior government leaders Li Changqun and Liu Yandong, university presidents and directors of Confucius Institutes from more than 350 universities from 105 countries, international diplomats and more than 160 Chinese university presidents. Accepting the tree was Xu Lin, director of Hanban Beijing, a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education that is committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide.

“The gift of a redwood sapling was very meaningful,” says Susan Pertel Jain, director of the UCLA Confucius Institute, who was at the conference. “Not only did it represent the future possibilities, but also our roots to the past.  Some of our California trees existed during the time of Confucius; that was a pretty powerful image for that audience.”

At the event, Hanban named the UCLA Confucius Institute among a small number of the Confucius Institutes of the Year. Jain said the honor is particularly significant in light of the chancellor’s invitation to speak at the event and because of the attention that UCLA has already received.

Under Block’s leadership, UCLA has developed a number of collaborations in China ranging from basic science, engineering and medicine to social sciences, film and television. Partners include the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing University, Zhejiang University, Fudan University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The UCLA-Peking University Joint Institute for Science and Engineering, an initiative launched in 2008 that involves more than 100 faculty, staff and students from the two partner institutions, is one such collaboration. UCLA also has a joint institute with Zhejiang University to promote collaborations in research and education, and innovative programs with Zhejiang University in medical education and training that benefit the medical students and clinical faculty.  In addition, UCLA has provided medical diagnosis service to Chinese citizens through telecommunications set up between UCLA and Zhejiang University. 

Randal Johnson, interim vice-provost for international studies, said strong partnerships abroad encourage international students to choose UCLA, attract the best and brightest faculty and staff, help the university to expand its research capacity and draw increased funding from private and public sources.

“UCLA’s partnerships around the world enhance the university’s core principles of academic excellence by developing collaborative research relationships and expanding possibilities for student mobility,” Johnson said. “Trips such as this one strengthen those relationships, while maintaining close ties to our alumni around the world. UCLA is a global university, and such carefully planned travel enhances its global network and reach.”

“It’s the chancellor’s regular trips abroad that have distinguished UCLA amongst all of its peers,” says John Peralta, executive director of development for the UCLA International Institute. “There’s no other school in California that has done as much as far as the chancellor being out there and fostering these connections with the world. He’s just a lot more present on the global stage. His trips aren’t big and splashy, but are regular and constant. People know him, they’re comfortable with him and they respect him.”

These activities may be one reason why students from the region are increasingly choosing UCLA. The 2011 Open Doors report, published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the U.S., ranked UCLA third among the nation's public universities, and sixth overall, when it comes to enrolling international students. During the 2010–11 academic year, 6,249 foreign students chose UCLA as their destination, an 11 percent jump over 2009–10, when 5,685 were enrolled, and more than double the national average increase of 5 percent for the same period.

The past decade has seen a 32 percent increase in international students studying in the U.S., with China and South Korea currently among the top three countries of origin. China, the top country of origin, represents nearly 22 percent of all international students coming to the United States. International students are responsible for injecting more than $21 billion each year into the U.S. economy.

The Open Doors report found that the biggest jump was in students from China, which reported a 23 percent increase over the previous year. Overall, Chinese students represent nearly 22 percent of all international students coming to America. Korea provides 10 percent of incoming international students to the U.S.

UCLA International Institute