Kean University and Chinese officials today broke ground on one of the first American campuses to be constructed in China, during an historic ceremony that marked the start of Wenzhou-Kean University in Zhejiang Province.
President Dr. Dawood Farahi and Ada Morell, chair of the Kean University Board of Trustees, presided over the ceremony for Kean University and were joined by thousands of Chinese officials and residents, who celebrated the international exchange opportunities that lie ahead.
“This is more than a groundbreaking ceremony; it is a groundbreaking opportunity for not only the students and the faculty of Kean University, but also the entire state of New Jersey,” Farahi said in remarks at the ceremony, which took place in China on March 21. “We live in a global economy. We must pursue truly global education to ensure both our nations continue to thrive for generations to come.”
Kean University is one of only three American universities approved to develop and operate a full-scale campus in China; the other two are New York University and University of California, Berkeley. All costs of developing and operating the campus will be borne by the Chinese government, but the design and amenities at Wenzhou-Kean University will embrace a distinctly U.S. campus feel.
“This project brings the American higher education experience to a burgeoning area of China,” said Chair Morell. “Kean’s partnership and history with Zhejiang Province and the city of Wenzhou created a strong foundation for this development, which is historic in nature.”
Farahi noted that the campus in China will open many opportunities for Kean faculty and students to travel abroad and study on-site in the world’s fastest emerging economy – China.
Set on approximately 200 acres in a rural, mountainous region in Wenzhou, the campus will be designed with an American-style concept, offering students, staff and visitors a true, authentic American experience.
The campus will be divided into three primary zones, with an academic section at the center. A Cultural/Retail/Housing zone will be located on the left and to the outside of this section. A Residential/Athletic/Recreational zone will then wrap above these two areas.
“Even though we want to truly build an authentic American experience, we still want to nod to the fact that it is a Chinese location,” said architect Kenneth Gruskin, who is assisting the Chinese on the design on Kean’s behalf. “Consequently, the way that we have set up the campus into these three zones suggests the Chinese principles of wisdom, culture and life.”
Gruskin noted that, throughout the campus, elements will evoke a connection to Kean’s sister campus in Union, N.J. For instance, the academic center will serve as the hub of student life, providing a pivot point for all that students’ experience. A primary axis – similar to Cougar Walk on the Union campus – will lead directly to this core of activity. There will also similarly be many lush, green, open areas, as well as a reflection pool, which will preserve a pastoral feeling on campus and offer students an opportunity to “spread out their minds into new vistas,” he said.
Along with world-class educational facilities, the campus also will feature a variety of other amenities, such as restaurants, retail stores, a convention center, a performing arts center, a fine arts museum, an outdoor amphitheatre and a hotel, which will provide cultural enrichment and entertainment opportunities not only for the students and staff, but for the surrounding Wenzhou community.
Among other notable features on campus, the residence halls, which will eventually house 10,000 students as well as staff, will take advantage of the distinct, mountainous topography. The athletic facilities will be similar to those found on Kean’s Union campus, with a pool, gymnasium, tennis courts and a sports stadium. The university will also have access to an Olympic-sized facility that will be built adjacent to the campus.
In December, the national education ministry in China approved preliminary plans for construction of the campus, authorizing an investment of 1.5 billion RMB (approximately $236 million) for the project that will become operational in 2013. This approval from the national Ministry of Education moved the major education initiative forward after more than five years of planning and negotiations.
“Education is a highly desirable commodity, and we will provide the people of Zhejiang Province with the graduate and undergraduate programs that we do best – education, public administration, business and computer science – to start,” Farahi said.
Wenzhou-Kean University will begin as a pilot project with 200 students perhaps as early as this fall. Once all approvals in the U.S. and China are secured, the campus anticipates an enrollment of 5,000 full-time students by fall 2016. All classes will be taught in English by American professors, with all accreditation standards being held to those established here in the United States. Students will earn degrees issued by Kean University. Kean University will supply all academic personnel, programs and course materials; Wenzhou is responsible for construction of the new campus and supporting all operations.
Kean University officially announced that it would open an extensive university campus in China during a historic ceremony held on May 8, 2006, on its Union campus that included leading officials from the state of New Jersey and Zhejiang Province. The agreement establishing Wenzhou-Kean University was signed by Kean University President Dawood Farahi and the President of Wenzhou University.
Work and negotiations continued on the initiative for several years, and saw real progress in July 2011 when Zhejiang Party Secretary Zhao Hongzhu visited New Jersey to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Sister State/Province agreement between New Jersey and Zhejiang. Governor Chris Christie hosted a luncheon at Kean University as part of the celebration that included government and business leaders from around the state. The events of that day and discussions between the two state leaders had a major impact on moving the Wenzhou-Kean University project forward, according to Secretary Zhao.