A Statement from Founder Dr. Peter C.C. Wang:
A First Decade of International Activities
When on September 11, 2001, the U.S suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history, Dr. Peter C. C. Wang was shocked and then motivated with a deeply felt sense of urgency that he needed to act to promote world peace. He and his wife, Dr. Grace C. Wang decided to make a significant financial gift to his alma mater, Pacific Lutheran University, to establish what is today the “Wang Center for Global and Community Engaged Education”. Its goal—to promote educational and cultural exchange among young students from all over the world. The overarching philosophy of education of both the Wang Center and The Wang Foundation, founded in 2004 with a focus on service learning and poverty alleviation, has been widely recognized in the academic world and has become a successful example for American international education.
Currently, nearly 50% of undergraduates from Pacific Lutheran University study abroad, much higher than the 3% of the U.S national average. The university’s educational philosophy and the importance PLU attaches to providing access to PLU students of limited means was recognized by a matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has created a $2 million endowment in support of Global Scholar Awards.
Drs. Peter and Grace Wang strongly believe that cross-cultural exchange can widen young students’ vision and help build a more just and peaceful world. In 2004, following on the success of the Wang Center founding, they formally established the “Wang Foundation” in Salinas, California, to promote cultural and educational exchange between Chinese college students and their American counterparts.
Dr. Wang thinks that poverty is the root cause of world instability and only when all human beings develop and prosper together can the world achieve true peace. As a Chinese-American, who deeply loves his motherland, Dr. Wang decided to help those impoverished compatriots living in rural China. After visiting a dozen Chinese universities, he and his wife selected Tsinghua University as the partner institution to engage with in poverty alleviation in rural China. They have done so by funding summer service learning programs and long distance education. It is a new path to poverty alleviation in China.
Unlike other poverty alleviation programs, Dr. Wang advocated that American students and Chinese students should work together in this summer service learning program (SSLP). Run by Tsinghua University American students have the opportunity to know more about rural China by traveling with Chinese students, who have the opportunity to work as part of an international team. Initially, because too few Americans recognized the rising importance of China, this Tsinghua program was unable to recruit American students to participate. Dr. Wang and his wife went to American universities in person to convince presidents to send students to China to attend the SSLP.
Then, in order to ensure the smooth progress of the SSLP, this dedicated couple flew from California to China to visit fieldwork sites located in villages, such as Lankao in Henan province and Chicheng in Hebei province. They urged local leaders to improve the living conditions for the visiting students. After that, they went back to California to interview American candidates and patiently explained to them the rugged conditions in rural China so as to reduce cultural shock when these students went to China. With the American students, Tsinghua University held the first “Poverty Alleviation Through Education Summer Service Learning Program” in 2006. More than 500 Chinese and American students formed more than 32 teams, traveling to remote impoverished villages in China. The American students taught English conversation and other subjects, the Chinese students trained teachers and students how to use technology to access and then disseminate knowledge to local farmers. The “left-behind children”, especially those girls who dropped out of school, benefited greatly from this program.
The “Poverty Alleviation Through Education Summer Service Learning Program” not only benefited tens of thousands of children in rural China, but also changed Chinese and American students’ views of their counterparts’ countries and culture. It also enhanced mutual understanding. For Chinese students, the spirit of service and the leadership skills they gained from this program cannot be acquired from the classroom, while for American students, their participation enabled them to have first-hand understanding towards Chinese culture and what is beyond the prosperous urban life in China. American volunteers said that through SSLP, they made sincere friendship with their Chinese teammates, which many have maintained, and met children of rural China on their own terms. This has not only changed their views towards contemporary China but also influenced their views towards the world.
UK forecast guru James Martin said, “Peter Wang is right to insist that the ideals of justice, sustainability, and peace are intertwined, and that education is the key to advancing these values. Peter Wang has been at the forefront of this movement with his pioneering work at Tsinghua University, bringing over one thousand Chinese and American students together for service assignments in rural China.” The SSLP, first proposed by the Wang Foundation, is a meaningful new direction of development for higher education in this new century. In 2007, the Drs. Wang both received the Wang Center’s “Peace Builder Award” under the watchful eyes of former vice president Walter Mondale, who spoke at the same event.
Summer service learning, an educational model as a way to alleviate poverty, has attracted more and more attention. In November in the same year, the Wang Foundation sponsored the first “International Symposium on Poverty Alleviation through Distance Education and Summer Service Learning” at Tsinghua University. More than 150 participants from the State Council Poverty Alleviation Office, Ministry of Education, along with representative of Chinese, American and Japanese universities took part in the discussion on the establishment of sustainable poverty alleviation system through education.
The contributions Dr. Peter Wang and his wife, Dr. Grace Wang, have made to poverty alleviation in China’s poor areas have received considerable media attention. In 2009, the Christian Science Monitor, reported on the influence of the program of the Wang Foundation on Chinese college students’ career choice and views towards life in the article titled, “China Boosts Rural Education”. In the same year, the Poverty Alleviation Office of Education of Tsinghua University published a Summary of the Wang Foundation’s work in Service Learning and Poverty Alleviation for which the British prediction guru and philanthropist James Martin wrote the preface giving high praise to Dr. Wang and the contributions he has made to poverty alleviation’s theoretical and practical work.
For the Wang Foundation, the year 2010 was a landmark year. Apart from funding the Poverty Alleviation through Education program, Dr. Wang opened the Humming Bird Story blogs on Tianya Community and Wenxue City Community, conveying to the readers the idea of poverty alleviation. In the article the Relation between China’s High-speed Rail Development and Poverty Alleviation & National Defense, Dr. Wang put forward views on China’s economy, diplomacy and national defense, calling for more people, especially youth, to join in the efforts of poverty alleviation.
In 2008, Goldman Sachs predicted that China’s economy in 2025 could surpass the United States and its size would double that of the U.S. by 2050. After the recent financial crisis, Goldman Sachs changed the time prediction when China would exceed the U.S.A. in GDP to 2020. However, due to China’s large population and unbalanced development, China’s poverty will be a long-existing problem. We still have a long way to go in the course of poverty alleviation. China’s rise in economy is a challenge to the Unites States, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for collaboration.
Dr. Wang also holds the belief that foreign language proficiency among the youth of California is essential to the competitiveness and international influence of California in the future while the key to improving students’ foreign language proficiency is teacher training. Given the future close relationship between California and the Pan-Pacific countries, he has given special attention to the teaching of Chinese language and the training of Chinese language teachers. Beginning in May 2010, the Wang Foundation has become actively engaged in the discussion and formulation of the “California Language Road Map”. This focus as been on contributing ideas to improving the foreign language proficiency of elementary and high school students and ideas in the areas such as Chinese teacher training, teaching materials, fund raising and operational models. In October 2010, the University of California Language Teaching Association invited Dr. Wang, the founder and CEO of the Wang Foundation, to server as a Governor on the Board of Language Consortium to provide guidance to the development of language teaching.
In order to further promote mutual understanding and cultural exchange between Chinese and American people, Dr. Wang suggested that American teachers who want to be certified in Chinese language teaching go to rural China to have a total immersion through the SSLP. In this way they can improve their Chinese proficiency while teaching Chinese students English with Chinese language teaching in the U.S.A. and China’s poverty alleviation through education growing together. This program is being carried out in collaboration with Stanford University, Technology and Education Connecting Cultures (TECC), and TECC Summer Institute (TSI) through the Stanford Chapter of the Wang Foundation.
From the founding of the Wang Center for Global and Community Engaged Education ten years ago, Dr. Wang has made tremendous contributions to not only promoting friendship between Chinese and American youth and advocating the idea of poverty alleviation through education, but also to proposing many pioneering ideas to help build a just, peaceful and sustainable future. Dr. Wang creates continues to give back to society in the spirit of sharing, and helping to build a bridge to a peaceful and prosperous future with a determination, attitude and resolve to “just do it”.
Dr. Peter C.C. Wang,