Flagship student Mack Lorden took a role in Project Pengyou and attended its inaugural Leadership Summit held at Harvard University, with the goal of helping build a healthy community of past, present, and future China alumni.
Read about Mack's story here:
"Studying abroad in China changed my life. My first time outside of the US, I went to a culture so very different from my own that I had no idea what to expect. However, upon landing in Qingdao halfway around the world for OSU’s Summer Intensive Qingdao Program, I realized that it didn’t take long before I felt right at home. The people were incredibly welcoming and hospitable; the language, though difficult at first, was very fun to practice and the Chinese thoroughly enjoyed it; and the scenery, of course—from Chinese architecture to the lush countryside viewed from a bullet train—was stunning. I enjoyed it so much that I went back for a second summer on the Critical Language Scholarship program before starting my Chinese Flagship Master’s coursework at Ohio State.
As a current student of the Flagship program, with the vast amount of resources at OSU and the experiences I have had with China, I realized there was a real need to be a part of a network like Project Pengyou (projectpengyou.org). Not only did I have a story to tell others who haven’t yet been to China, but I also wanted to be part of a group of people who have been to China and know exactly what I am talking about. When I learned of Project Pengyou’s inaugural Leadership Summit in early February of this year, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to help build a community of past, present, and future China alumni. This leadership conference seemed to be the perfect way to learn how to help build this community and increase interest and understanding of China. Later in March, I happily accepted a position at the conference.
The four-day summit held at Harvard University was spearheaded by Holly Chang, founder and president of the Golden Bridges Foundation and current leader of ProjectPengyou.org. The Golden Bridges Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization erected in 2007 to promote mutual understanding between China and the West through charitable projects. In similar fashion, with personal endorsements from Hillary Clinton and previous US Ambassador Gary Locke, Project Pengyou was established to provide a large network for all China alumni as well as those who currently have dealings with China. The summit’s primary focus was to promote an opportunity to “gain unique hands-on training in cross-cultural leadership and community-organizing methods, and learn strategic skills to mobilize people and resources as part of a national grassroots campaign.” In short, the training was everything we expected and more, and we are committed to reaching the goal of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative.
From the moment I landed in Logan International Airport in Boston until the time I boarded my flight home, I was surrounded by an inspiring group of leaders, thinkers, and activists. Still, it made me proud to represent the Flagship program among such an elite group. During the four-day conference, we were taught a semester-long Harvard leadership course administered by several of Marshall Ganz’s personal Leadership Fellows. Marshall Ganz is often regarded as a revolutionary grassroots campaign leader and professor, and is also credited with the successful Obama campaign in 2008.
On Day 1 we learned basic organizing leadership practices, as well as how to communicate our values through story telling, bringing alive the emotion that is a necessary pre-condition for changing the world. Day 2, we learned the importance of community building, in which the existing support circles of those who have been involved with China can continue to expand and connect with others. Our community and these relationships are rooted in the shared values we have for the need to improve the US-China relationship. On Day 3 we concentrated on strategy and action— how to strengthen our organization and attract and engage new people. Finally, on the last day of the conference, we had the opportunity to speak with a panel of experts on US-China relations, including a State Dept. Foreign Service Officer, Co-founder of the Committee of 100, representatives from the 100,000 Strong Foundation, and more. This served as an excellent way to gain true perspective on how important our two countries’ relationship is in today’s globalizing world.
One of Project Pengyou’s core beliefs is that the United States and China hold the world’s most important bilateral relationship, but the relationship is highly complex, challenging & multi-faceted. As pengyous, we believe people with frontline experiences in China are our most crucial and valuable asset in managing US-China ties. We are calling for all students and scholars who have studied abroad in China to become a leader for Project Pengyou. We also welcome any who show interest in China and would like to become more involved as our two countries become more and more deeply connected. We believe that through personal story telling and passionate belief in our cause, we can increase the number of those interested in China, studying abroad, and doing business with China, ultimately improving the US-China relationship.
Project Pengyou is just starting to take off, and currently we are seeking student leaders to further develop our OSU chapter. Project Pengyou’s possibilities are endless; it can even take the form of a hub for China-related events, jobs and resources, connections to other alumni, etc. We look forward to hearing you share your story!"