July 28, 2014

In a trip that underscored growing opportunities for public policy practice and scholarship in China, Dean Merit E. Janow recently spent several days in Beijing and Shanghai, where she connected with groups of alumni and students and attended events devoted to entrepreneurship, technology, and urban policy.

At receptions for alumni and incoming students in both cities, Janow shared highlights of the past year at SIPA and welcomed new students, who will be arriving at the School this fall. About 75 guests attended the two receptions, which featured a balance of alumni and both incoming and returning students.

“It has been an enormously active and exciting year at SIPA,” the dean said in Beijing. “For those of you just beginning your relationship with SIPA, I welcome you to our community, which you can see brings great expertise and energy across a number of important policy areas.”

In Beijing, Janow also co-hosted with Dean Mary C. Boyce of Engineering a larger program—sponsored by the Columbia Alumni Association—devoted to Columbia’s recent efforts to support entrepreneurship, innovation, and public policy among students and alumni. The CAA had successfully hosted similar events in New York and California, but the June 22 program marked the first such foray in Asia.

Janow highlighted recent activities, including her own Dean’s Challenge and the new Columbia Startup Lab, and noted that the crowd of more than 200 Columbia alumni, students, parents, friends, and faculty attested to Columbia’s status as a true global university. The CAA event also featured a panel discussion among engineering faculty moderated by Boyce, and exhibitions of some locally based startups run by Columbia and SIPA alumni.

The next day, the two deans visited a government-sponsored technology park in Beijing, where they discussed the U.S. and global investment climate, what it means to “go Global” and go public in the United States and/or other capital markets, the strengths of Columbia's engineering program, and important developments in technology occurring around the world.

In Shanghai Janow took part in another CAA event—the Global Columbia Forum on Smart Cities for an Urban Future. In a discussion with engineering professor Vijay Modi, Janow noted the importance of cities and urban development to policy students and scholars. Cities will provide a great deal of economic growth over the next 50 to 100 years, she observed, and will also present enormous public policy challenges that cut across sectors like health, education, infrastructure, civic engagement, and finance. SIPA-trained alumni will have the interdisciplinary tools and global perspectives to approach such challenges.

Looking back on her visit, Janow said it was a successful trip to an area of growing importance.

“One of my primary objectives in visiting is to engage our growing community of Chinese alumni and emphasize the School’s interest in China and Asia,” she said.