East of Westwood
Published Oct 1, 2010 8:00 AM
An enthusiastic eight-clap erupted in Shanghai when Ralph Amos, assistant vice chancellor of alumni relations, led a large group of Chinese guests in the Bruin cheer at a gala reception on July 24. It was the last event in a series known as "UCLA in Shanghai," a weeklong celebration of UCLA's continuing relationship with one of the world's largest and most important cities. The reception brought together 150 current UCLA students, alumni, faculty and staff in various ways, including recruitment events by UCLA's Undergraduate Admissions and Relations with Schools, a board meeting for the UCLA Confucius Institute and the Asia Alumni Summit.
After the rousing demonstration of Bruin pride, a slide show showcased "24 Hours of UCLA in Shanghai," a project in which 60 UCLA students living in Shanghai for the summer were given one day to canvass the city and photographically document their impressions. The resulting images provided a stunning overview of the color and diversity of a kinetic city whose metropolitan boundaries contain an estimated 14 million people and whose skyline combines traditional Chinese pagodas with European colonial architecture and modern skyscrapers. Some student photos captured the concurrent 2010 World Expo, but just as often their shots reflected day-to-day life in one of the largest cities in the world, like crowded antique markets or state-of-the-art subways.
"24 Hours of UCLA in Shanghai" was an inspiration to Tom Parkinson-Morgan '11, a global studies major, who set out to take pictures of People's Square for the assignment but "stumbled on something cool" and ended up taking pictures of street life on West Nanjing Road. The best part of the assignment for business economics major Kimberlie Shiao '11 was "seeing a city that changes all the time." The hardest part was "communicating with the Shanghainese, who don't necessarily speak Mandarin" and "getting over how the Chinese line up for public transportation." She took pictures of Madame Tussauds Shanghai and other museums.
Each constituency in the weeklong celebration took a different approach toward making UCLA a more global presence. Yunxiang Yan, a professor of anthropology at UCLA and Zijiang Professor of Sociology at East China Normal University, stressed the importance of study abroad: "We want to emphasize experiential learning. We hope students will get cultural fluency." Bin Wong, director of the Asia Institute, concurred that students could get a broader perspective through study abroad. Chris Lee '98, a feature film producer and entrepreneur who attended the alumni summit, is looking for "opportunities for the alumni to work together to produce good business and charitable outcomes."
Kathleen O'Kane '74, associate director of admissions, talked of "recruiting international students to strengthen the cultural diversity of the institution." Finally, Scott Waugh '70, provost and executive vice chancellor, emphasized leadership: "We want to make sure we are the leaders that we want to be. We're doing everything we can to enhance our international presence and we're working hard to build our alliances in Asia."
Did it work? Did it ever. As the reception wound down and alumni exchanged business cards and students made arrangements to get together in Westwood, one guest asked David Unruh, assistant provost and master of ceremonies, "Can we do this every year?"