International profile: China, France
Honorary degree recipients at Installation
Staff - October 1, 2013
This Friday, Dalhousie will welcome eight university leaders from around the world as part of the proceedings to mark President Florizone's installation. The leaders, each with an impressive set of accomplishments, will receive honorary doctorates from Dalhousie and will take part in a panel discussion on "The future of universities," 9 a.m. Friday in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium; all are invited to attend. The event will also be broadcast live in Alumni Theatre, Agricultural Campus and will be webcast on the Installation website.
Each day this week we'll be sharing two of the leaders' profiles here on Dal News. For full details on the honoured guests and Installation proceedings, visit the Installation website.
Past President, Peking University
In a country where students with the top entrance exam scores are featured on national news broadcasts, Dr. Xu Zhihong, former President of Peking University and a leader of China’s post-secondary educational reform, stands out as a pragmatist.
That “pragmatic passion” could be seen as a theme underlying Dr. Xu’s own academic work. A plant biologist, and graduate of Peking University and the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dr. Xu worked as a visiting scientist in John Innes Institute and the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, before returning to the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology to become deputy director and later director. His research interests include plant development, plant cell culture and genetic manipulation, and plant biotechnology.
In 1999 Dr. Xu was appointed President of Peking University, the oldest university in China, a position he held until 2008. During that time, he established and coordinated the Beijing Forum on Higher Education, which gathers university leaders from around the world to share educational philosophy, ideas and advances. Under his leadership, Peking University strengthened its international connections, helping the institution emerge from the educational challenges of the Cultural Revolution into the modern research and scholarly powerhouse that it is today — one of the world’s top 50 universities and the top-ranked Chinese university.
Not that Dr. Xu would trumpet that ranking. Among his many provocative statements is his belief that university rankings, like examination marks, are over-emphasized. Instead, he stresses the importance of supporting students in pursuing their academic passions and personal interests, assisting them in developing a caring attitude towards society and nurturing their love for their chosen disciplines.
While Dr. Xu has recently retired from university administration, he continues as a professor at the College of Life Sciences at Peking University and the Shanghai Institute of Plant Physiology. He remains engaged in discussions around fostering university excellence, both for university institutions and students.
President, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris 3)
A scholar of contemporary North American literature at the helm of one of France’s leading universities is an unexpected juxtaposition. But as the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 extends its international presence, the election of Dr. Marie-Christine Lemardeley as President seems both fitting and forward-looking.
Dr. Lemardeley, one of the few women in France to be elected for a second term as a university president, is a professor of English literature.
She is a former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, obtained her master’s degree at the Sorbonne, writing her thesis on Samuel Beckett at the University of Oxford, and completed her doctoral research at the Library of Congress, on a Fulbright Fellowship. Formerly Dean of the Faculty of English at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, she has co-edited the French Journal of American Studies and currently sits on the board of the Franco-American Commission for Educational Exchange (Fulbright Commission). She was elected to her first term as university president in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Her superior leadership and scholarly achievements were recognized by the French government in 2010 when she was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, France’s highest governmental honor.
Dr. Lemardeley heads a university whose relatively recent structure was born of the student protests of 1968, its founding part of the striking reforms of the French university system that followed that time. More than four decades later, those reforms continue, as Dr. Lemardeley leads her university’s efforts in three key endeavors: to strengthen its academic structure, to enhance its international connections, and to improve its efforts relating to student life. She has spearheaded new international cooperation agreements, including one with Dalhousie that involves the exchange of students and faculty members, the development of joint research initiatives and the potential for joint supervision of graduate students. Under her watch, the university has been judged to be among the best 150 in the world in the areas of Arts and Humanities, according to the 2012 QS World University Rankings.
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