President of Zhejiang University to speak at Illinois May 31
5/23/2012 | Mike Helenthal, News Editor | 217-333-5491; email@example.com
[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Wei Yang, the president of Zhejiang University, one of China’s leading research universities, will deliver the second installment of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s “The Research University in the World of the Future” speaker series.
Yang, a nanoscience researcher and past chair of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities and the Union of Research Universities in China, will deliver his public address from 4-5 p.m. May 31 (Thursday) in the auditorium of the Beckman Institute, 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana.
Trained as a mechanical engineer, Yang earned his Ph.D. from Brown University under Ben Freund and in 1989 became the youngest full professor at Tsinghua University, where he had earned his master’s degree. He held a variety of leadership positions before being appointed president of Zhejiang University in 2006.
Yang also will meet with campus leaders during his visit, including at a post-seminar reception and roundtable discussion with administrators and senior faculty members.
The speaker series is a part of the Visioning Future Excellence initiative started by Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise. The series is designed to help identify the critical issues the university will be facing over the next several decades.
“The hope is, this will help us establish a long-term vision for our campus,” Wise said. “This will help us have some serious conversations about how to identify, and then tackle, some of society’s most-pressing problems.”
The first speaker in the series, Maria Helena Nazaré, president of the European University Association, brought her message to campus May 2.
Nazaré has helped preside over a host of reforms recently set in place for European universities, designed to make them more accountable not only to the financial bottom line but also to changing demographics and needs. She said the demographic changes will be compounded by climate change and dwindling natural resources, pressures the entire globe will face.
Nazaré said the result of the reforms has been stronger partnership between universities and private business, and an acknowledgement that higher education must adopt new funding strategies. A greater emphasis also is being placed on cross-disciplinary collaboration as a way of fulfiling societal needs and the career aspirations of students, she said. The business links also have provided an opportunity to strengthen ethics education, according to Nazaré.
“We have to abolish barriers across disciplines and we have to integrate knowledge,” she said. “Since the future cannot be predicted with certainty, a degree of flexibility needs … to be built in the system.
“We cannot do it as we did it before; we can no longer be individualistic. We have to pool resources. We’ve got to join brains, join funds, go across boundaries, join business, recruit the best and share in the profits. I think we should pay more attention to what the labor market is telling us.”
She said while change is necessary, it shouldn’t necessarily be feared.
“We should not feel threatened,” she said. “If we feel threatened, we won’t go anywhere. Be daring. These issues are not insurmountable, they need will.”
Wise praised Nazaré for her candor and vision for the future of higher education.
“We’re already facing some of the issues she discussed and many of those challenges have already been pinpointed during the Visioning Excellence process,” she said. “The next step is to flesh out those ideas, connect them to real-world applications and integrate them into the academic process,” she said.
Following Yang’s presentation May 31, more speakers will be added to the series for the fall semester.