On June 24th 2016, Yenching Academy’s International Academic Advisory Board (IAAB) held its annual meeting at Peking University. Members of this board, which advises the dean on academic structure and curriculum of the Academy, include Henry T. Yang (Chancellor of University of California Santa Barbara), Elizabeth Perry (Professor of Political Science at Harvard University), Zhang Xudong (Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University), Yuan Ming (Dean of Yenching Academy), John Holden (Associate Dean of Yenching Academy) and Jiang Guohua (Director of Operations of Yenching Academy). Alison Richard (Senior Researcher at Yale University) and Meric Gertler (President of University of Toronto) joined the meeting through Skype.
Professor Jiang first reported to other members of the IAAC regarding the work and achievements of Yenching Academy this past year.
The first cohort of Yenching Scholars learned about China both outside the classroom, through field trips, and within, through interdisciplinary classes linking China to the West. The appointment of a full-time Dean at Yenching Academy also served to improve the structure of the Academy and develop a good foundation for future growth. Yenching Academy received more funding to subsidize its scholarship programs. Professor Jiang also introduced the academic curriculum of the Academy, including the core classes, elective classes, field studies, lecture series and language classes.
Dean Yuan manifested her approval of the current program in that: “After studying at the Academy, Yenching Scholars increased their level of Chinese and most importantly, enhanced their understanding and appreciation for Chinese culture.” Professor Jiang also recounted many of the notable accomplishments of Yenching Academy last year: the Yenching Global Symposium, the Ambassador Speakers Series, the China-Africa Journalism Forum, and many other student-let activities.
President Gertler and Chancellor Yang praised the work of Yenching Academy. Professor Perry said: “Yenching Scholars come from different countries and this creates a wonderful international background at the Academy. Under this unique environment, Yenching Scholars are able to experience something they are not used to." Professor Jiang also shared the demographics of Yenching Scholars, the administrative structure and staff organization.
The IAAB discussed ways to improve the Academy, including course structures, academic instructions, admission policies, relations between research and lectures and the role of Scholars. Professor Richard shared that: “I’m impressed by how the Yenching Academy is able to take the wonderful resources of Peking University and invite experts in China studies to teach courses for the students. This method should continue and we must continue to work and improve it.”
At noon, 3 IAAB members shared lunch for student representatives from Yenching at Jingyuan #3 for a private discussion with the students to hear their advise and feedback.
In the afternoon, Vice President of Peking University Gao Song visited the Academy and entered a discussion with members of the IAAC and other administrators from the Academy regarding the future development of Yenching Academy, student feedback, class structure and career planning. Vice President Gao shared his view that: “We must focus on how we can give students knowledge that can be applied to better the world and better the students themselves. We will work together to widen the choices for the students so that they can take even more classes in any school within Peking University they wish."
Dean Yuan shared her view that: “Peking University has a very strong academic culture and outstanding faculty. We should think of ways to take advantage of this pre-existing resource and create an even better academic and extra-curricular environment for Yenching Academy.”