At the Prime of Life

Yenching Academy of Peking University was founded in May 2014. Over the past eight years, we have met young Chinese and international students who demonstrate a talent for leadership and global vision. Likewise, we have grown during this period, thanks to the tireless efforts of our young staff, who work hard on building bridges between China and the world, making brilliant contributions to our Academy.

On the eve of China’s Youth Day, YCA invited our young staff from behind the stage to the spotlight, listening to their stories and appreciating their services for the Academy’s operation and success.

Dang Ke: It’s a happy journey with the like-minded

Ms. Dang Ke, YCA’s Head of Student Affairs and a PKU alumnus from the Sociology Department, has been with YCA since 2015. She chose to work with her alma mater out of her deep love for the University and her strong faith in the Academy’s future.

“I sat in the professional personality test. One of the top three sources of my sense of achievement is being able to help others. I prefer to be of help and achieve success with others; it feels better than to attain success all alone.” Ms. Dang works closely with YCA Scholars on issues concerning their study and daily life and cherishes interacting with students.

Dang was deeply impressed with the last graduation concert. She was touched by the brilliant performances of talented students and her colleagues, who are like “masters with hidden unique skills.” She saw the essence of student affairs: “We must be with students, support them, and be part of the memories they create and cherish.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control measures being the new normal, Ms. Dang noted she feels as though it was yesterday when the pandemic hit in early 2020. Peking University issued an emergency notice soon after the outbreak in China in early 2020, which had to reach all our Scholars immediately. She and her colleagues began, without delay, informing students and inquiring about their location and status; many had already returned home across the globe. “It was the third day of the first lunar month, still in the Chinese New Year holiday. But my colleagues worked around the clock, without stopping to have lunch,” she described.

Dang Ke connects with her colleagues and the Academy beyond her work because they enjoy the work, life, and shared experiences in the YCA family, where they know and respect one another’s habits and wishes. Here at YCA, they stay open-minded and feel at ease. In the interview, Ms. Dang expressed many times how deeply the warmth of the YCA family had moved her.

Fan Meiwen (Paris): I’ve grown up from a student to a teacher

Fan Meiwen, YCA’s Head of Curriculum and Scholarship, has been working with the Academy for six years. Since the inception of the compulsory course, “China in Transition (CIT),” Ms. Fan has been responsible for communicating with lecturers and answering students’ questions. Our professors and students have been impressed with her work ethic, commitment to quality, and perfect English.

Ms. Fan works on the Academy’s core courses, scholarship, and exchange projects, but she found being CIT’s coordinator the most challenging job. This role requires her to design course arrangements for the eight lecturers in the autumn semester and work out the schedule for team research projects in the spring semester. With five-years efforts, Fan Meiwen has improved the course setup and built CIT into a well-structured course of interdisciplinary perspectives. Our teachers and students have applauded the class for its quality content and set up to boost interactive discussions among students. Ms. Fan was excited to talk about the spring semester forums: “I felt excited and proud when I saw our talented young Scholars present their research results, full of confidence. I could see their academic efforts repaid on that stage.”

Ms. Fan said she has been keen on cultural exchange since middle school. As a high school student, she was on an exchange project in the United States. Later, she continued her journey to Southeast Asia and the southern hemisphere, and returned to her hometown of Beijing. Majoring in cultural exchange and Chinese-English translation, Ms. Fan joined the Yenching Academy upon graduation, translating her love for cross-cultural communication into the cutting-edge education program in China. She has turned from a cultural exchange participant to a project organizer and operator at the Academy.

A dance-lover, Fan Meiwen learned ballet and Chinese classical dance for 11 years from an early age. She was invited to perform Chinese classical dance at the embassy events and Hunan TV’s Chinese New Year Gala. Ms. Fan has been a great help to students’ dance performances, “Through Chinese classical dance performance, I contribute to having the essence of traditional Chinese culture and aesthetics well-known to more people.”

Lu Chenyuan (Kaitlyn): My success is with the Academy

Our alumni from the 2016 and 2017 cohorts may know Lu Chenyuan better, as she worked as a class advisor and was in charge of student affairs back then. In 2018, Ms. Lu took charge of the Office of Administration. She felt happy at “taking a back seat,” seeing it as a recognition of her previous efforts for student affairs and an opportunity to undertake new actions for the Academy’s administration.

Administration work covers all issues concerning messages, minutes, assets management, internal control, property management, epidemic control, and safety measures. Ms. Lu could be reached on her cell phone at any time by her colleagues at the University’s epidemic control team and the administrative, security, and back offices. She initially worked in this capacity during the 2018 BXAI Summer Program organized by the Academy.

Ms. Lu was responsible for supporting students’ visa applications and arranging for venues, buses, and budgets. She also worked on YCA’s culture-related events. She contacted her former student Rosie Levine, who interned at a cultural heritage institution in Beijing, to reach an event organizer. The organizer arranged a hutong tour, an orientation event, and a rock-climbing activity at Huanghuacheng Lakeside Great Wall for the BXAI program participants. The students participated and enjoyed the events.

Ms. Lu has felt a strong sense of accomplishment working on the PKU Yenching Academy’s Regulation on Epidemic Control and the Yenching Academy’s Emergency Plan for Epidemic Control. She expressed her belief in the importance of norms for success, adding that internal control documents must be binding texts with authority and consistency and account for the Academy’s conditions. Routine words they may be, these documents are closely related to the life and work of the Academy’s students and teachers. Ms. Lu is satisfied with her work and efforts: “My success is with the Academy’s.”

Wu Pei-Chia (Petra): I’d like to be a small bridge across the Strait

Wu Pei-Chia, Head of Admissions, has changed her post over the years with the Academy. When she joined the Academy in 2017, she worked with the Office of Degree and Student Status and was responsible for dissertation issues. Ms. Wu finds herself “going over students’ entire timespan at the Academy, from admission to graduation.” YCA Scholars have left a deep impression on her: “It’s not a single event or person. I remember clearly every year’s admission event. I’ve been impressed by all our applicants. They are talented and excellent.”

One of the few PKU administrative staff from Taiwan, Petra has been keen on cross-Strait cultural exchange. Born to a medical family in Taiwan, Ms. Wu spent her university days in the UK, majoring in biomedicine, and later earned her master's degree in public health. But she never gave up on her dream of cultural exchange. Interning at the Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU), Ms. Wu learned about YCA’s China Studies master’s program and decidedly applied to work with the Academy. Traveling around the world in her early years, she returned to China and has been translating her aspiration for cross-Strait cultural exchange into her efforts for university education.

In 2017, the Academy sent three teachers to the BXAI Summer Camp at Taiwan University, preparing for the BXAI Summer Program 2018 at YCA. Petra did a great “guide” job. That was her first task accomplished at the Academy. In this cross-Strait educational exchange, Ms. Wu was happy to see that students around the world could join hands, despite all sorts of barriers and differences. She is a staunch advocate of multiculturalism. Kind and considerate as she is, she has been an intimate friend to students in need. Ms. Wu believes in the power of heartfelt sincerity in personal communication and cultural exchange.

Wu Yang: Stay humble, stay hungry

Peking University held its annual sports meeting on April 23-24. Yenching Academy staff actively participated in the sports events, particularly the group game Whirlwind Challenge. Ms. Dang Ke and Mr. Wu played as the Spinners. Dang remarked, “One can always rely on our dear Wu. He’s a man one can always count on.”

Wu has been working with the Office of Public Relations, in charge of the Academy’s communication, official website, and network security. One of the few male workers in the Academy, Wu maintains a low profile and seems to be seen only at events, never without his single-lens reflex camera. He covers YCA events and photographs the scene in Jingyuan Garden, many of which are seen on the Academy’s posters and website. Wu also writes articles for the website. He is a self-taught user of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Pro, and many other software tools.

Mr. Wu finds his work at the Academy rewarding because he has gained many new skills in the past years, including making videos and audios with diverse tools. He is studying front-end languages like HTML and CSS to better run the Academy’s official website. Wu Yang feels a strong sense of achievement in his work with the PR department: “I’m happy to see my work – articles, photos, and videos – published on the YCA website and social media accounts, and read, watched, transferred, and appreciated by the others.”

Mr. Wu once studied in Japan. An avid traveler and admirer of museums, he had visited almost every province in China before joining the Academy and has filled the blanks on his travel map since starting at YCA. Wu bought a year-ticket for museums in Beijing when he moved to the city, visiting museums every weekend. Wu has visited almost all the museums in the city. He said: “I’m happy to work with the Academy, and I’ve learned from my seniors and colleagues; they are prominent Scholars and dear friends. In the Academy, we learn to stay humble and hungry, see the world from broader perspectives, treat others as equals, and respect the sciences.”

Zhang Fan: I relive my student years in the Academy

Housed in Shaoyuan Building 6, the YCA Library is a students’ retreat and the office “exclusive to” Zhang Fan, YCA’s Librarian. Ms. Zhang works four days a week in the YCA’s largest office – the Library – and enjoys her time studying by herself and with our Scholars. Seeing students researching in the Library gives her a refreshing feeling as if she is reliving her student years again.

The Library has a collection of over 5,500 books. Ms. Zhang created a new system from scratch when she assumed her role in 2017. During this time, the Library housed no more than 3,000 books, and none was in the PKU’s Library System. Students borrowed and returned books through a manual system. She had to carry the books, one trolley after another, to the PKU’s Library, and asked her colleagues to catalog the books. In our interview, she charmingly downplayed her efforts: “I owe too much to my colleagues. Without their efforts and help, we could not have the YCA Library today. They have helped me with my work and my life.”

Zhang Fan finds that every job has its highlights, which cannot be judged with the same criteria. She hopes for an end to the pandemic so that our Scholars can arrive on campus and study in the Library. Ms. Zhang cherishes the memory of the Orientation Day held at the Library for the entire new cohort. Liu Shu from the PKU Library was invited to the event, and two student assistants shared their experiences. All YCA staff also attended the genuinely inspiring event.

Furthermore, the Academy has witnessed two big events in Ms. Zhang’s life. During her years with the Academy, she married and became a mom: “I’m grateful to my colleagues at the Academy. Their support enabled me to return to work faster and better. And with their help, I grow more confident and enjoy my work.”

The six teachers who sat in our interviews represent the Academy’s staff. The work and life of our staff are far more brilliant than expressed in the discussions. They are a united, caring, inclusive, and inspiring team that thinks of nothing else but our students’ future. They are lovely, young, as our YCA Scholars are.

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