As research, recruitment, and faculty and student interest from China continues to grow at Georgetown, administrators are looking to build greater ties with China through Weibo, a Chinese social media site that works much like Twitter.
“Georgetown University is the leading university in Washington, D.C., and in the country in terms of its focus on China,” Supervisor of Academic Programs at the Asian Studies Program Robert Lyons said.
Aside from academic ties, Georgetown additionally holds strong community ties with China. Students from China make up the largest international population at Georgetown. China also serves as one of the top 10 destinations for student study abroad.
Georgetown first established its Weibo page in 2011, becoming one of the first universities in the United States to do so. Associate Director of International Initiatives Tuoya Wulan is heavily involved in the page’s development and continues to work on social media outreach in China.
“Engagement with Chinese social media is to build the university’s brand in China, to reach out to prospective and current students, parents, alumni and other interested visitors and to increase awareness of the student life on campus as well as teaching and research of Georgetown faculty,” Wulan wrote in an email.
According to School of Foreign Service Asian Studies Program Assistant Director Kat Harrington, the connection augments student learning as well as the university’s engagement with China.
“Through these social and academic initiatives, Georgetown is diversifying opportunities for its students interested in China. They provide ‘real world’ learning to complement the textbook learning on China,” Harrington wrote in an email.
The page also provides a space for Georgetown students and alumni to share personal stories.
The group also fosters connections among Hoyas abroad. For instance, a McDonough School of Business alumnus who is a food critic living in Shanghai, reached out to visiting MBA students through Weibo in order to take them out on a local food tour during their Global Residency Program in Shanghai.
Since the launch of Georgetown University’s account, the Law Center’s Graduate Admissions Office, Chinese Student Alliance, Chinese Student and Scholar Association and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs have established their own Weibo pages.
While the Chinese government blocks social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the domestic Chinese-language network offers an uncensored platform.
“Neither the Berkley Center’s Weibo page nor the university’s page has encountered any issues with censorship thus far,” Wulan wrote.
The center has little cause for worry anyway, as its page’s content is far from controversial. The Berkley Center’s Weibo page first launched in order to share a resource page that the center developed on religion in China and the United States. It continues to post news links, faculty research and relevant publications.
Director of the Berkley Center and Vice President for Global Engagement professor Thomas Banchoff believes Georgetown’s location and value system make it an ideal institutional partner for Chinese students and universities, but the Georgetown community stands to learn just as much from China.
“There is a lot that Georgetown students and faculty can learn about history, culture, religion, politics, science, business and other topics in China. … We look forward to continuing the two-way flow of students between Georgetown and universities across China,” Banchoff wrote in an email.
The university is looking to develop even more Chinese and foreign language pages outside of Weibo. Currently, a general university Chinese intro page and a Chinese info page for the Master of Science in Foreign Service program exist.
“A lot can be lost in translation in terms of meaning, significance,” Lyons said. “I think it’s useful that the university’s keeping up with trends that are currently going on in China and just because having an insight of culture, having experts in the field really helps us engage better.”