In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight, I travel to Beijing to interview Jen Zhu, LRCCS alum ‘04, who later worked on the LRCCS staff and created the Chinese Studies Blog as we know it! If you never had the pleasure of working with Jen in the past, you can learn more about her here.
Interview conducted and edited by Eric Couillard
Couillard: First let’s hear about your background – where did you grow up?
Zhu: I was born in Beijing, and I moved to the U.S. with my family right after I finished elementary school. I went to middle school and high school in South Bend, Indiana, did my undergrad at Johns Hopkins, and took a year off from the MA program at LRCCS to study at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center.
Couillard: What part of Beijing did you grow up in?
Zhu: I grew up in the same place I’m living now, which is in Xinjiekou, in Xicheng district. I have very fond memories of going to Houhai almost every day.
Couillard: What brought your parents to Indiana?
Zhu: At the time my mom was teaching piano at Indiana University, so we moved there.
Couillard: When did you start working at LRCCS?
Zhu: As I was finishing my MA, I started working at the International Center [not to be confused with the International Institute] and later on became the first China Initiatives coordinator for the University, a position that was located in the International Institute. I initially reported to the director of the II, and after a reorg, my position was incorporated into LRCCS and expanded in other exciting directions including alumni engagement and development.
Couillard: When did you start the Chinese Studies Blog?
Zhu: Actually I think it was originally started by Summer Tucker, who was the center administrator back in 2005. After Summer started it, I just saw it as an opportunity to add more timely content to supplement the website, which was more cumbersome to update. It started out as an announcement page, and gradually we added more types of content.
Couillard: Everyone at LRCCS was sad to see you go, and also happy to see you take your next step. You’ve made a huge impact on so many people involved with the center. Speaking from personal experience, you got me a job working for Jet Li in 2013, then got me this job running the blog after you left. Both times I really needed something, and you came up with the perfect solution – you’re like my guardian angel!
Zhu: Aw, thanks! I can see why you’re doing so well in this job, haha.
Couillard: So what are you up to now?
Zhu: I’m happy to be part of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, the Beijing center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which is one of the oldest think tanks in the world. Our mission is to bring together Chinese and international scholars so they can engage in timely discussions on global challenges and identify possible solutions.
As the center’s communications director, I oversee the planning and execution of our programming and publications. I’ve had the opportunity to hire most of my team. I learn so much from the team; they are my daily inspiration.
Couillard: What kind of an impact do you want your career and life to have on the world?
Zhu: I think what I find most enjoyable is connecting people and connecting them with opportunities. I also love supporting scholarly work on China. For example, one of the last projects I worked on at LRCCS was the post-doc program. And it was most gratifying when one of the scholars published a groundbreaking article – it felt great to have contributed in my own little way to sophisticated research.
Couillard: What’s going on right now at Carnegie? Anything you want to promote?
Zhu: I invite folks to check out Carnegie scholars’ very timely analyses of how the new U.S. administration should approach foreign policy. I’m also very excited about Carnegie-Tsinghua scholars’ work on understanding China’s nuclear policy and the role of advanced technology in security affairs.