UD opens institute in China

New institute will open this summer. UDCI expected to spark collaboration among researchers, businesses.

The University of Dayton is expanding its reach to China with an Aug. 8 opening of a new institute in “one of the fastest growing and most competitive” development zones in the world, officials said.

UD’s China Institute in the Suzhou Industrial Park — where a third of the world’s Fortune 500 companies have operations — will allow students and staff to collaborate with businesses on research and developing new technologies.

“Global competency is an essential skill. It is really a competitive edge for our students,” said Provost Joseph Saliba.

The university is calling the China Institute UDCI.

UDCI will likely become a recruiting tool for the university for both students in Dayton and students from China.

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The university expects the institute to be financially self-sustaining and possibly bring revenue to the Dayton campus.

“There’s a definite expectation that in the near future this becomes a revenue-generating operation for us,” Saliba said.

The park made a multimillion-dollar investment by inviting UD rent-free for three years into a renovated five-story, 68,000-square-foot building with classrooms, laboratories and project space.

“This is not about starting an international campus for the University of Dayton. It’s about providing our students with international opportunities few campuses can offer,” said President Daniel Curran.

University officials estimate that in a given year, 2,000 people — both students and professionals working at companies in the area — will come to the institute for education, said Philip Doepker, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering who is coordinating industrial and technical relations at UDCI.

The institute will open the door to co-op and internship opportunities in China for University of Dayton students as well, according to UD.

“By having our students work in China and students from China coming to the U.S., what we’re doing is giving them a much broader picture of how the world works,” Doepker said.

The Suzhou Industrial Park is supplying some money for operating costs and has provided furniture for the institute. UD has invested in travel expenses and salaries for the 40 to 50 staff and faculty who will work there. UD will also pay a monthly management fee.

Although some short courses are already being offered — including one on energy-efficient manufacturing that begins Saturday — the institute is still being developed.

UD has proposed a Marianist heritage center in the building and is exploring a certificate program for graduates to teach English in China. The university is considering an outreach program for high school students and opportunities for UD students to do service abroad there.

UD will be the only university in Suzhou concentrated on educating the current workforce there, Doepker said.

The institute builds on UD’s experience commercializing technology and doing research in emerging areas, such as nanotechnology. The university has about 145 licensing agreements with industries. In China, the university will work with global companies it already has relationships with in Dayton, such as GE Aviation.

The Aug. 8 opening is the culmination of about four years of work. UD was the first American university to sign a memorandum of understanding with the industrial park in December 2010, according to the university.

The grand opening will include the world-renowned Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Ohio’s former Gov. Bob Taft, the University of Dayton’s Horn Quartet and a solo percussionist.

Curran, Suzhou Industrial Park officials, representatives from international companies, educators from Chinese universities and two Catholic bishops from the region will also participate.

The Suzhou Industrial Park about 75 miles from Shanghai. Located in Jiangsu Province in eastern China, the park is a cooperative venture between the governments of China and Singapore, according to UD.

Weiping Wang, a Chinese scholar with educational experience on multiple continents, has been appointed executive director of the institute.

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