Delegates from Duke Kunshan University and Kunshan's municipal government visited Durham earlier this month to discuss DKU's future.
The delegation—which was led by Du Xiaogang, the new mayor of Kunshan—stayed in Durham for several days of meetings the week of June 17. Duke and Kunshan officials signed a memorandum of understanding which outlined how the parties will work to establish new initiatives at the University, including an undergraduate degree program and a new master's degree.
“There has been constant and ongoing conversation between Duke, Kunshan and DKU officials about issues related to the University,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “Mayor Du thought it was important that he should have the opportunity to visit Duke, meet the people here and get updates on what Duke is doing in relation to Duke Kunshan.”
Schoenfeld noted that much of the dialogue between Duke and DKU officials centered around new educational initiatives. Of particular significance was the proposed undergraduate degree program which is expected to be considered by both Duke faculty and the Board of Trustees later this year.
Other notable proposed changes to the DKU's educational offerings included the expansion of the undergraduate semester program, and the creation of a new master’s program in international environmental policy that will launch in 2017.
The undergraduate degree program, which has been a major focus of discussion for Duke and Duke Kunshan administrators, is expected to increase enrollment and educational opportunities at DKU, noted Denis Simon, executive vice chancellor of DKU.
“It really [bodes] well for the future that once we secure the necessary Board of Trustees approvals at Duke, we will embark on this degree program in which at some point DKU hopes to have a class of 500 undergraduates for a total going number of about 2,000 undergraduates enrolled," Simon said.
As DKU continues to grow, the administration has started to focus on enhancing DKU's brand and reputation in China.
“There are a growing number of conferences, academic events, scientific events and business events that are taking place at Duke Kunshan,” Schoenfeld noted. “The University itself continues to expand into new areas and grow in visibility in China and beyond.”
These events attracted widespread media attention all around China and helped increase the University's name-recognition internationally, according to Simon. He noted that the campus hosted a two-day international forum about China's role in innovation in May.
“We have had some of the top people in China’s innovation ecosystem come to speak, and we have had China’s top experts on technology policy [meet] with a number of American experts to discuss the successes and challenges of the Chinese innovation system," Simon said. "It’s been great for brand-building and raising the image of DKU, and it shows that we are a thought leader in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Simon added that he is optimistic about the future of the Kunshan campus.
“I think what we are starting to see, if we look from a macro level, is that the idea of Duke Kunshan University is starting to get some brand recognition and some attention to the quality of the programs,” Simon noted. “You can begin to see the progression from the slow start into a much more rapid rise. It suggests a good future for the entire initiative.”
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