Duke Kunshan University held its first day of classes Monday—opening its doors to students after years of planning, construction and controversy.

For its first semester, DKU is home to three academic programs—master's degrees in medical physics and global health, in addition to a semester-long undergraduate global learning program. Beginning in January, the university will also host a master's of management studies.

Vicki Russell, senior lecturing fellow and director of the writing studio, is spending the semester teaching in Kunshan after years in Durham. She noted the diversity of her students—with pupils from Vietnam, India, the United States and China.

"In my 18 years teaching at Duke, I have never had as diverse a group of students as I had this morning," Russell wrote in an email after her first class Monday. "After a week of orientation activities, we have really bonded as a uniquely multi-cultural community and are well positioned to focus on the academic intellectual work ahead."

Photo Courtesy of Duke Kunshan University

Both undergraduate and graduate students arrived on campus last Wednesday for the start of orientation. The undergraduate program enrolled 62 students from 22 universities across the world—including 16 from Duke and Wuhan University, DKU's Chinese partner university.

Last year, DKU administrators told The Chronicle that they hoped to enroll 100 students in the undergraduate program.

The three master's programs collectively enrolled 42 students from 11 countries.

"The culture exemplifies everything we value here at Duke: academic curiosity, innovation and diversity," senior Taylor Laub, co-chair of Duke's Kunshan Student Advisory Council, wrote in an email Monday. "It is a special place and I hope my classmates and future Duke students have a chance to be a part of it."

Construction continues on the campus, with one of six buildings complete. Four of the remaining five should be ready for use in the coming weeks, Nora Bynum, vice provost for DKU and China affairs, previously told The Chronicle. Students are currently being housed in a nearby hotel, but the mood on campus is still one of enthusiasm, DKU faculty and students have noted.

"The students are very excited to be a part of this inaugural semester," Russell wrote. "They are very engaging and very engaged—a winning combination."