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Fairbank Center Forms Student Group, Citing Interest in China

By Mia C. Karr, Crimson Staff Writer

Members of the newly-formed Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies Student Advisory Committee met for the first time this week to discuss how to increase undergraduate involvement at the Center.

The committee is the brainchild of Chinese history professor Michael Szonyi, who took over the directorship of the Center this semester. He said that the idea came to him after he noticed that undergraduates weren’t engaging with the Center, despite significant undergraduate interest in China.

“The basic purpose of the advisory committee is figuring out how to get students, in particular students at the College and MA students, participating in the Fairbank Center,” he said. “It’s basically the first step in a larger public outreach program.”

According to Szonyi, the Center hosts approximately 12 events each week, and the committee aims to better advertise them to students. He added that President Barack Obama’s former national security adviser on Asia spoke at the Center two weeks ago and few or no undergraduates attended.

The committee hopes to expand the Center’s social media presence and increase collaboration with student organizations. By attaching the Center’s name to speaker invitations, Szonyi said he hopes the Fairbank Center can help bring speakers to China-related student groups.

“We have all these resources, we have all these people, and now how are we going to make that more accessible to the undergraduate community,” committee member Christian P. Bennett ’17 said.

Members of the inaugural committee include leaders of China-related student organizations, students who have worked for the Center, and students with academic interests in China, Szonyi said. Both Bennett and fellow committee member Charlie R. Zhang ’17 completed summer internships in China through the Harvard China Fund.

Zhang said his involvement with the subject outside of the classroom influenced his decision to pursue a secondary in East Asian Studies.

“I want everyone to have the potential to have the experience that I had,” he said. “I just want, for lack of a better term, to have people gain more exposure to these sorts of discussions and these events, which actually significantly affected my experience here at Harvard.”

In addition to meeting periodically and focusing on communication and outreach, the student advisory committee will be involved in the Fairbank Center’s 60th anniversary celebration in the fall.

-Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.

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Social Sciences DivisionFacultyChinaAsiaEast Asian LanguagesFaculty News