From athletics to academics, the University of Washington will be well represented in China next week.
A large cohort from Seattle that includes UW President Ana Mari Cauce, the UW men’s basketball team, and many others from the region are traveling to Beijing and Shanghai to help celebrate a new partnership with Tsinghua University and the innovation happening at the UW.
[Editor’s Note: Check back starting next week for regular reports from GeekWire’s Taylor Soper from Beijing and Shanghai.]
On Monday, Cauce will visit Tsinghua University in Beijing — known as China’s MIT — where she will meet with fellow educational leaders and speak at the university’s Innovation Forum. The UW and Tsinghua earlier this year announced the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a new Bellevue, Wash.-based technology graduate school founded as a joint effort between the two universities and companies like Microsoft, which put $40 million toward GIX. The partnership marks the first time that a Chinese research institution has established a physical location in the U.S.
For Cauce, who was just named UW president last month, this will be the first visit to China for the 59-year-old.
“That whole region of the world has been important to us for a very, very long time — not just in terms of a technology partner, but also from a policy and diplomacy point of view,” she told GeekWire.
This past September, Tsinghua University President Qui Yong visited Seattle and met with Cauce during the same week China President Xi Jinping was in the Emerald City.
“There has been the establishment of a relationship, and given the number of times the president of Tsinghua has been here, it’s important that I be there in Beijing,” Cauce said. “We really view this as a partnership.”
On Tuesday, Cauce will head to Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, where the UW men’s basketball team is participating in a Pac-12 event at the company’s campus. The Chinese e-commerce tech giant — essentially the Amazon.com, eBay, Google, and PayPal of China, all wrapped into one — is sponsoring the first-ever U.S. regular season men’s basketball game (NBA or NCAA) to be played in its home country when the UW and the University of Texas square off in Shanghai on Nov. 14.
The UW is also hosting an Innovation Summit in Shanghai one day before the game that features innovators from the UW like Shwetak Patel and Adina Mangubat who will be talking about their work. Also giving keynote speeches are Microsoft Greater China Region CEO Ralph Haupter and UW CoMotion head Vikram Jandhyala, who was one of the driving forces behind GIX and is a champion of innovation and commercialization of ideas born at the UW — both of which Cauce says will escalate under her watch at the university.
“There are lots of reasons to be doing this trip, including of course the fact that knowing about that region, engaging with that region, and building partnerships with that region is very important to our students and faculties,” Cauce said.
The UW president touted the innovation going on at both the UW and Tsinghua University, noting the GIX partnership as a symbol of that.
“China has really been an innovation pace setter, and Tsinghua has been at the core of it,” she said.
As for the men’s hoops team, Lorenzo Romar’s squad will play its first regular season game at 11 a.m. on Saturday (Friday at 7 p.m in Seattle on ESPN) at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai.
Before the game, players from both the UW and Texas will participate in education programs at Alibaba on Tuesday that touch on the basics of China’s culture and economy, along with a tour of the company’s campus. Later in the week, they will also practice at a local high school and interact with students there.
“It will be special for them,” Romar said of his players.
The Huskies have been learning Mandarin and the basics of Chinese culture as they prepare to travel to China for one week. Freshman guard Dejounte Murray said it’s the first time he’ll be leaving the U.S.
“I just want to go out there and see stuff I’ve never seen before and take pictures,” Murray said. “But, at the same time, I’m there to win a basketball game with my team.”
Senior point guard Andrew Andrews, who already traveled to China last year as part of a Pac-12 all star team, called the country “very different.”
“The food, the culture,” he said. “They have ceremonies before the games, with martial arts type stuff. It was just very different, but I enjoyed it.”
Cauce noted that “it’s not just a basketball game” for the players.
“This is a whole educational experience for them,” she said.