Consultant and businessman Jeffrey R. Williams ’78 was selected late last month to serve as the first executive director of the Harvard Center Shanghai, a facility that supports interactions between the Harvard community and China.
The Center, which opened in March of this year, provides resources to Harvard faculty and students pursuing academic work in China and also serves as a location for executive education programs hosted by the Harvard Business School.
According to Todd Washburn, an assistant provost for international affairs at Harvard, Williams is particularly well-suited for the job given his experience working in East Asia.
Williams—who is fluent in Mandarin—has spent the majority of his professional life working in the region for various financial companies, including Citibank and American Express company. Most recently, he worked as a private consultant in China.
“I think we’re very lucky to have him. His qualifications for the job are really all we could have asked for when we started the search,” Washburn said.
The role of executive director extends beyond overseeing the staff and programs of the center. According to a press release announcing Williams’s selection, the director also serves as a representative of Harvard to organizations within China and throughout the world.
In the press release, Harvard’s vice provost for international affairs Jorge I. Domínguez highlighted the ways in which Williams’s experience will allow the center to effectively strengthen Harvard’s relationship with the world’s most populous nation.
“The center will be the key locus of support for the University as we continue to build relationships with Chinese colleagues and institutions,” Domínguez said in the release.
Washburn said that in addition to Williams’s knowledge of the region, his experience as an active alumnus was a positive factor in his selection. A graduate of both the College and the Business School, Williams has served as the president of the Harvard Club of Beijing and the Harvard Club of Hong Kong.
Washburn said that he believes Williams will use his position to reach out to the many different schools at Harvard and encourage their engagement with the center.