Representatives from the Wisconsin China Initiative and other University of Wisconsin departments are traveling to China to meet with education, government and business leaders in an effort to explore options for establishing a UW facility in Shanghai for students and faculty.

According to Wisconsin China Initiative Chair John Ohnesorge, the facility would act as UW’s base in China in the hopes of encouraging study abroad participation and would create cultural ties between the two countries.

“We’ve been thinking of it as a multi-faceted sort of hub,” Ohnesorge said. “It’s kind of the Wisconsin Idea extended to China … to help the state, help the business community and help the students.”

UW College of Engineering Dean Paul Peercy said his department is interested in providing new opportunities for engineering students in China because of the country’s rapidly growing economy and the lack of study abroad opportunities currently available for engineering majors.

“The bottom line is that engineering is the same around the world,” Peercy said. “If you design a bridge, that bridge won’t look very different if you build it in Madison versus if you build it in Beijing.”

Peercy added that the College of Engineering is looking at a variety of opportunities for the students in China. 

He said he hopes the facility would provide more chances for engineering students to learn about cultural differences and global challenges.

“What we’re really interested in doing is educating what has lately been called the ‘global engineer,'” Peercy said. “By that we mean an engineer that can work in any other culture around the world and make a positive impact on the economy of that culture.”

Ohnesorge said the discussions this week as to the logistics of the facility will involve UW, Jiao Tong University and government members in the district of Shanghai where the office would be located.

He added that multiple American universities, including New York University, Cornell and University of California-Berkeley, are opening facilities in China while Chinese university administrators explore academic options at universities in the United States.

Peercy said UC-Berkeley’s College of Engineering worked with partners in Shanghai last week in order to open a center in the area, collaborating on research and academics.

Allowing UW students to study in China, Peercy said, would make them more competitive and knowledgeable about global cultural issues.

Ohnesorge added that Jiao Tong University is in a prominent location as well, with a local humanities university nearby in addition to several multinational corporations that could offer internships to UW students, including Microsoft and Intel.

According to Ohnesorge, the facility could also be used to offer short courses and training programs as part of a trend to reach out to a business community throughout the state of Wisconsin that is increasingly interested in learning about China.

“This has always had a big student component because that’s one of the main things that the China Initiative was created to do: help us focus on teaching Wisconsin students about China,” Ohnesorge said.