The world is only at the start of its embrace of global education and its potential, Linda G. Mills, the new president of New York University, said in an exclusive interview with Shanghai Daily. Mills was speaking during her first visit to Shanghai on September 6-11 since taking the top leadership position of the renowned American university in July.
Mills has been in Shanghai many times previously and was very involved in the establishment of NYU Shanghai, the first China-US joint venture university founded by NYU and East China Normal University in Shanghai's Pudong New Area. She was named NYU's vice chancellor and senior vice provost for global programs and university life in 2012, when NYU Shanghai was founded.
"Because we were really the first university of our type in China, we had no model to refer to," Mills said, as she recalled how she and her colleagues started a "new, special, singular, and successful" university from scratch in cooperation with their partners from East China Normal University.
"In addition to thinking through the admissions process, which was my area of focus, we also had to lay the groundwork for academic excellence; we had to recruit faculty; we had to build a curriculum; we had to select outstanding leadership; and we had to imagine the culture we would want to create at a new university in China, yet one that was linked to NYU's larger global network."
Mills said the founding of NYU Shanghai was a groundbreaking creation.
"It reaffirmed NYU's outlook on global higher education: Engagement with other cultures and societies is vital to defining higher education in the 21st century. This message resonated with others, including students, faculty, staff, and of course, the city of Shanghai, which really helped to set NYU Shanghai apart," she said.
"Shanghai is an extraordinary city, indisputably one of the great cities of the world! As different as it is from New York, there are also many ways it feels similar – the incredible energy, the entrepreneurial spirit, the constant innovation, the focus on the future."
Dedicated to cultivating globally minded graduates through innovative teaching, world-class research, and a commitment to public service, NYU Shanghai's growth in the past decade has exceeded Mills' expectations.
Starting with nearly 300 undergraduates, the university's student body currently consists of nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Half of the students are from China and the remainder from the United States and some 80 other countries and regions. Last month, NYU Shanghai welcomed a new batch of over 700 new bachelor's, masters and doctoral students.
Every year, many NYU Shanghai graduates are employed by top-flight companies and intergovernmental organizations or admitted into postgraduate programs at prestigious universities around the world.
The institution is also proud of its faculty of renowned scholars, innovators, and educators recruited from the world's best research universities. With 33 new faculty members from 12 countries joining recently, the university's faculty has grown over 10 years from 118 to 268, representing 29 nationalities and 43 academic fields.
As the university celebrated its 10th anniversary, it moved from a one-building site on Century Avenue in Pudong to a new campus on the booming Qiantan area.
Mills sees this as a milestone for the university to grow and expand its graduate programs in the future, as well as to "establish even more of a campus community".
About two weeks ago, the United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo also visited NYU Shanghai. She said she was impressed by what she saw, and stressed the importance for universities to sustain positive interactions between Chinese and American students, and for the world to have global citizens such as NYU Shanghai students and graduates.
During Mills' visit, she also met with Shanghai Party chief Chen Jining.
Chen said NYU Shanghai was a successful example of people-to-people exchanges between China and the US. He expressed his wish that education and NYU Shanghai could play a bigger role as a bridge in promoting friendly exchanges between the two countries.
"In the higher education sector, I continue to see a lot of hope and commitment and goodwill even during moments of fractiousness and competition between China and the US," Mills said. "I am reassured by that, not just for the sake of NYU Shanghai, but for the sake of higher education and for global engagement overall.
"I believe that the world is only at the start of its embrace of global education and its potential: as the 21st century proceeds, global higher education will be recognized as essential to a university's academic mission, as NYU has done. And many years from now, when historians of higher education look back, they will agree that efforts like NYU Shanghai, or Duke Kunshan, or NYU Abu Dhabi, established the models that many other universities came to emulate or take inspiration from."
During her visit, Mills also visited East China Normal University and signed a memorandum of understanding with Qian Xuhong, president of ECNU, to extend the cooperation in education and research between the two universities.