‘The next phase’: DKU celebrates 10th anniversary, welcomes new chancellor

<p>Concerns about academic freedom and freedom of expression in China caused a lot of debate and delays in the establishment of DKU.</p>

Concerns about academic freedom and freedom of expression in China caused a lot of debate and delays in the establishment of DKU.

As Duke prepares to enter its second century, its campus in China is entering its second decade while welcoming a new chancellor.

Duke Kunshan University, originally established in September 2013 as a partnership between Duke and Wuhan University, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. On Sept. 1, Yaolin Liu was appointed the school’s chancellor, replacing Youmei Feng, who held the post for five years.

In an email announcement to the DKU community, Liu said the school “has grown from zero to become a model for how higher education can bring together people from across the globe”. As chancellor, Liu aims to work with the community at DKU to build a “more knowledge-based, human and peaceful world.”

To celebrate the anniversary, President Vincent Price, along with 13 other Duke leaders, visited the recently-expanded campus in August.

The anniversary has also acted as an opportunity for reflection on DKU’s relatively short history and for excitement about what the future may hold for the Chinese campus.

DKU welcomed its first students in 2014, offering graduate degrees and study-abroad opportunities. It became the first Chinese university campus to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program in 2016, and welcomed its first undergraduate students in 2018. In 2022, Price praised DKU’s “extraordinary students,” but warned of challenges due to worsening geopolitical circumstances.

Jill Creighton, DKU’s dean of student affairs, emphasized that the orientation theme for the Class of 2027 was “the next phase,” referencing the schools’ recent doubling in size.

“We're literally opening the next phase of the physical campus,” she said. “There's 22 new buildings that did not exist and were not open to students, faculty or staff even on May 1 of this year, so it's quite a feat.”

Creighton labeled DKU a “burgeoning university,” adding that it would be their “first in-person class to start altogether since the Class of 2023 started in the fall of 2019.” 

When discussing the successes of DKU in the past 10 years, Creighton drew attention to the students before anything else. 

“The reason universities exist [is] to grow students in their intellectual pursuits and it’s also for the purpose for faculty to contribute to the knowledge base of the world,” she said. “By bringing together an intercultural community, we're solving problems with different ways of thinking that you don't get in mono-cultural environments.”

Beyond increasing the size of its student body, Creighton mentioned that in order to establish longevity in a university, “the first and foremost goal for every class is figuring out how to interculturally communicate and thrive together.” 

“The students … all have such unique perspectives, [they] come from over 70 countries, the average student speaks three languages,” Creighton said. “There's such impressive young adults on this campus, and [they] all are the ones that are going to go on to solve really big problems globally and will leave this university with an intercultural skill set to do it.”


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