Wesleyan in China

Much of the early contact between Wesleyan and East Asia was mediated by missionaries. In 1976, the late David Titus, professor of government and East Asian Studies, researched and wrote an account of the earliest interactions between Wesleyan and East Asia — which begins very early indeed, some five years after the University's founding in 1831. Mansfield Freeman, class of 1916, was an important link between the University and China through his founding of an insurance business in China that became American International Group (AIG). A prominent scholar of Chinese philosophy and a philanthropist, Freeman supported the establishment of the East Asian Studies Center at Wesleyan. Acting through the Freeman Foundation, his son, Houghton “Buck” Freeman ’43, and his family created the remarkable Freeman Asian Scholars program, which has brought scores of students from China and other East Asian countries to Wesleyan.

In 1979, following the opening of the first U.S. embassy in the People’s Republic of China, former professor of history and East Asian Studies Vera Schwarcz became one of only seven exchange scholars, and the only western academic with a PhD, invited to visit China – a dramatic reopening of scholarly contact. Wesleyan was one of 11 colleges and universities participating in the American Context of China's Christian Colleges project, which was directed by Professor (Emerita) Ellen Widmer of Wesleyan's Asian Languages and Literatures Department.

President Michael S. Roth has continued and deepened Wesleyan’s engagement with China through several trips, forums held jointly by the Social Sciences of China Press and Wesleyan, and visits with alumni in China. “In China, I’ve found a deep and growing appreciation for liberal education,” Roth said. “I’ve come away more convinced than ever that Wesleyan has much to offer Chinese students and that there are opportunities to develop some very beneficial partnerships.”

In 2017, the University launched an official WeChat channel with the primary goal of providing accurate and informative details about Wesleyan, as well as the US college admissions process, for prospective students and parents from mainland China. 

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