Liberal Arts and Wesleyan in Asia

Over this last week of break I have been traveling in Asia to visit with alumni, students, parents and prospective students. We started out in Seoul, where a group of Wes alums (WesKo, led by Sam Paik ’90 P’16, Jung-Ho Kim ’85 P’17) have been keeping the Cardinal spirit going for many years now. There were more than 40 people at our reception, and I had the opportunity to talk with them about many of the great things our students and faculty are doing on campus. This included current students and some potential pre-frosh who are anxiously awaiting word about their applications.

Great group of friends in Korea

Among the attendees was Injae Lee ’10, who has recently acted on his entrepreneurial passion and set up a Pedal Taxi company. He says he’s inspired by Wes.

Injae Lee ’10 ready to roll!

I think he’ll have many drivers around the city before long!

After just a couple of days in Seoul, I left for Hong Kong with Asian Studies alumnus Andrew Stuerzel ’05, now working in University Relations. There we fought through some airplane food poisoning to participate in a boisterous reception of more than 50 Wes friends at the China Club. Steve Young ’73, the US Consul General and Steve Barg ’84 welcomed us warmly, and we had great visits with alumni and parents. In Hong Kong, Simon Au ’07 asked about the changes to our financial aid policies, and that was a subject I talked a lot about on this trip. We receive generous support from our alumni overseas, and there is nothing more important to our fundraising than increasing endowment support for scholarships. That was, after all, a major reason for my trip. Financial Aid — now more than ever!

Wesleyan Reception in Hong Kong







After just a day, we were off to Beijing, where Ted Plafker ’86 P’15 and Roberta Lipson P’15 hosted a lively reception in their home. Again, there were many prospective students, all of whom seemed eager to hear more about what in their eyes seemed to be a very magical campus environment. There were also undergraduates home for winter break, and they were able to cut some of my propaganda with their personal insights into student life at Wes. Alumni seemed just delighted to see this much Wesleyan energy in China!

Wesleyan Reception in Beijing





The next day I gave a lecture on liberal arts education at Peking University. It was very moving to hear my distinguished host, Prof. Tu Weiming, sing the praises of Wesleyan faculty Vera Schwartz and Stephen Angle. After teaching at Berkeley and Harvard, Prof. Tu is the Director of the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at PKU, and he is very committed to developing partnerships that deepen liberal learning for all participants. I spoke to an audience of about 200 mostly graduate students and faculty about the genealogy of Pragmatic Liberal Learning in American intellectual history.


Liberal Arts Talk at PKU










I was especially delighted that Professor Ying Wang P’16 came up from Shanghai for the talk with her daughter Yangjun Chen ’16.  Prof. Wang is spearheading the development of a liberal arts college at Fudan University.

Our last stop was Bangkok, where Tos ’85 P’14 P’17 and Sookta Chirathivat P’14 P’17 hosted our final reception on this trip.

We expected a smaller crowd in Thailand, but once again we had almost 50 attendees. There was a COL grad from more than 40 years ago (Alan Feinstein ’70), and high school students eager to hear about the university.







Parents of these applicants grilled current students about whether they really got as much out of their college experience as this president claimed. Our students said it all by showing how eager they were to get back home to Middletown. As I finish writing this post waiting for my final plane, that’s a sentiment I very much share!