On a cold, clear day in China last month, representatives of two universities and two cultures assembled on a flat stretch of dirt and rubble to celebrate one future and the physical form it's about to take.
As traditional Chinese music played and balloons were released into the air, top administrators from Johns Hopkins and Nanjing universities capped off a groundbreaking ceremony for a just announced $18 million construction project for the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, which opened in 1986. Preliminary plans call for building an up to 106,000-square-foot addition to the center and upgrading the existing facilities. Once completed, the structure will more than double the center's size, transforming "a compound" into a more conventional academic campus.
Back in his SAIS office in Washington, Daniel B. Wright, executive director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Program, said that the extra space will allow the center to expand current programs and add new ones, increase the student and faculty populations, and provide a more suitable home for the new Hopkins-Nanjing Institute for International Research, which officially opened its doors one year ago.
The Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies is located on the campus of Nanjing University, one of China's foremost academic institutions. Nanjing, a city of 5 million people, is the capital of the Jiangsu Province, situated just south of the Yangtze River.
The center, now in its 17th academic year, is jointly administered by Nanjing University and SAIS, making Johns Hopkins the only American educational institution with a permanent physical presence in China. It offers a one-year graduate-level certificate program in Chinese and American studies, covering topics in international studies, economics, history and related social science issues. Each year up to 50 Chinese and 50 international graduate students, researchers and young professionals are chosen for the program.
Jessica Einhorn, dean of SAIS since June, said that her first trip to Nanjing, for the Nov. 14 groundbreaking, was "nothing short of inspirational." In addition to Wright and Einhorn, other Johns Hopkins officials who made the trip, which included the center's annual two-day advisory council meeting and a sightseeing tour of the country, were President William R. Brody, with his wife, Wendy; James T. McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration; Paula Burger, vice provost for academic affairs and international programs; and David M. Lampton, director of China Studies at SAIS.
Einhorn said the consensus of those in attendance was that the future of the center appears very bright.
"My hopes for the Nanjing Center are in a sense already being fulfilled," she said. "In many ways, I see the pioneering part as being behind us. And now, with this planned new physical addition, we are ready to elevate the center's academic mission."
To that end, Einhorn said a master's degree program is being explored.
"We are moving forward on this front with a very positive point of view," she said. "In respect to degree giving, I can say we are currently working collectively with the great university of Nanjing on the right way to go about it."
Einhorn said that what has allowed the center "to go to the next level" has been the work of Dan Wright and the "vital efforts" of two new leaders in Nanjing: J. Stapleton Roy, a former U.S. ambassador to China who is now chairman of the Council for the Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, and Robert Daly, the center's American co-director. Both men were appointed to their posts last year.
As chairman, Roy leads the 25-member council that provides advice and guidance on the operation, support and overall development of the center. Daly and his Chinese counterpart, Chen Yongxiang, are responsible for the management of the center's affairs; the administration of the summer language program, Nanjing Immersion; and the Institute for International Research.
Looking back at the research institute's first year of existence, Wright said, "The work already done there has been tremendous. We have one scholar looking at the power of the media in U.S.-China relations, one examining the social impact of the Three Gorges Dam project and another studying Hollywood's take on China in the first half of the century."
Currently, seven fellows from China, the United States and France are engaged in a diverse range of scholarship. Those chosen to study at the research institute reside at the center for one semester or an academic year and examine a wide range of subjects reflected in the center's curriculum and other topics related to political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and health issues.
"We believe our new research dimension has strengthened our academic community," Wright said. "We also feel that the institute is on its way to becoming the premier destination for the finest Chinese and international scholars."
As for the center's new physical addition, Wright said the plan is to have it completed by fall 2006. To date, the university has solicited proposals to do a planning study, and the footprint for the new facility is in the process of being cleared.
The Hopkins-Nanjing Center is currently housed in a 75,000-square-foot building that contains classrooms, an auditorium, a library, a computer room, a lounge, a cafeteria, administrative offices, dormitory rooms and residential apartments.
"We are definitely tight for space, especially after adding the research institute. It's not like we are holding classes in the hallways, but we are very full," Wright said. "The new space will be a lot to grow into," he said. "But more importantly, I see it as a window of opportunity for our universities' great partnership to grow together toward the future."