Project Pengyou Leadership Training Summit Fall 2015 at UC Berkeley


Meet the 2015 Leadership Fellows!

3rd time’s a charm, right?

With each summit, we are learning with the Fellows how we as a community can be better, more focused, and hone in on what bridges really need to be built between the US and China. After the first two cohorts of Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows returned home, they laid the groundwork for campus chapters across the nation. Through their hard work, we have glimpsed what this network is capable of achieving together.

We are consistently amazed by the focus, dedication and commitment displayed by the Leadership Fellows at the summit, but this time it felt different. This cohort was joining a tight-knit community with a clear purpose: to improve US-China relations from the ground up starting with their campus chapter. The movement that began last spring in a cozy Harvard classroom is beginning to take shape in a very real way.

The Summit

Fellows on the move at Berkeley
Fellows on the move at Berkeley

This summit took place over Columbus Day weekend at the beautiful UC Berkeley campus and was hosted by our Project Pengyou UC Berkeley Chapter. We thoroughly enjoyed the California sunshine and it felt fitting that the next steps of this movement would take place on a campus that is historically known for it’s intellectual curiosity, inclusiveness and political activism. The Fall ’15 Leadership Fellows were diverse and passionate, an equal mix of fresh faces and leadership team members from established chapters. We were excited to also invite back six 2014 Leadership Fellows who served as coaches guiding the new cohort and practicing their own leadership skills.

“This is not your mother’s conference.”

The small groups present their campaign timeline
The small groups present their campaign timeline

In the words of one of the new Fellows, Kiana Mendoza, “this is not your mother’s conference”. Our training is based on renowned Harvard professor Marshall Ganz’s Leading Change course. The curriculum teaches core community organizing practices including the effective use of narrative and stories to build meaningful relationships and galvanize people into collective action for a shared purpose. Teaching a full semester’s worth of material in four days is no small feat. For the third time, we asked a group of almost total strangers to dig deep, maintain focus for more than 10 hours a day, sacrifice sleep and social time, and share deeply personal stories about why they are called to US-China leadership. This is an intensive environment, but our Fellows have grit and passion, and believe in the power of bridge-building.

Throughout the weekend, we saw this group of young leaders grapple with new perspectives of leadership, build their confidence and form unbreakable bonds with each other. There were many things said that resonated with us, but here are a few that we feel capture the spirit of the conference:

“…I don’t have to be helpless; I can make a change.”


“If we make a difference in just one person’s life, we will have succeeded.”


“Our children should grow up in an America where they can be electrified by our differences…”

We push our Fellows to really challenge themselves and they continue to inspire us. It’s amazing how each Fellow we have had the chance to meet has impacted our team and also helped us to continue learning. We hope that this new cohort of Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows can take the tools they learned at Berkeley and return to their campuses to empower others and organize impactful Project Pengyou Chapters.

Bringing it back to China

After days of focusing on the tactics and theories of leadership, we invited two lifelong US-China bridge builders, John Thomson and Tom Gold to speak in a Fireside Chat titled, “The State of US-China Relations: the Original China Hands Perspective” at the UC Berkeley Anna Head Alumnae Hall.

These men were two of the first people to go to China after it reopened to the world in 1979 and they witnessed first-hand the dramatic changes China underwent as well as the evolution of the US-China relationship. They started the evening by sharing how they got to China and quickly dove right into complex issues such as cyber security and sovereignty in the South China Sea. They also shared varying opinions on the outcomes of the recent State visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping to the United States.

Although they approached these issues with realism and pragmatism, they also mentioned multiple times how important it is for young leaders to drive people-to-people exchanges and commended the efforts of Project Pengyou chapters. Tom Gold described how his motivation to be a bridge builder came from growing up during the Cold War and realizing after living in Berkeley surrounded by activism that “the world doesn’t have to be this way.” He asked us to remember that although we may be frustrated that things don’t seem to change as quickly as we’d like, if we think about how far US-China relations have come in just 30 years, we must have hope for the future.

After the event, John and Tom stayed and chatted with the guests until almost 11pm to share their wisdom, making it a memorable evening for all.

When Friends Become Family

Fellows Gabriel Castillo and Luis Garza
Leadership Fellows Gabriel and Luis

On the final day, we wrapped up the summit at the beautiful and historic International House at UC Berkeley. Jason Patent, Director of the Center for Intercultural Leadership and Chief Director of Operations at UC Berkeley’s International House, gave an engaging lecture about intercultural communication and explained that although our brains naturally process differences as potentially dangerous we can overcome it through exposure and understanding.

Finally, the coaches/previous Fellows, Leslie Martinez, Lilly Sedaghat, Jianyin Roachell, Kathleen He, Sophie Wright, Phillip Merlo, and Christina Lu brought the experience full circle with a panel to answer questions the Fellows had about chapter building: how to get started, overcome obstacles, and what to expect. It was a magical moment where we could feel that in one short year, a legacy had been created.

We are so proud of all of you for your enormous effort and passion, and we can’t wait to usher in the future of US-China relations with each of you at the vanguard of this movement we’re building together. This is just the beginning.

Silly group photo!

Check out the full list of Fall ’15 Leadership Fellows below:

  1. Adam DaltonGrinnell College Chapter
  2. Alethea CookGrinnell College Chapter
  3. Arian DragosEagle Chapter (Embry-Riddle University)
  4. Ariel YardeniCUNY Hunter College Chapter
  5. Charli Bradley-BanishLewis & Clark College Chapter
  6. Chi HuynhUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison Chapter
  7. Dalia CastroSwarthmore Chapter
  8. Elizabeth WeinleinPitzer College Chapter
  9. Gabriel CastilloSharpstown International School Chapter
  10. Heather CaudleUniversity of Texas-Austin Chapter
  11. Hiram Rios HernandezHarvard University Chapter
  12. Jeffery HolmesMorgan State University Chapter
  13. Jiaxin ZhangUniversity of South Florida Chapter
  14. Jodi CullityUniversity of Maryland Chapter
  15. John McHughIndiana University Bloomington Chapter
  16. Kevin GaoBelmont University Chapter
  17. Kiana MendozaClaremont McKenna College Chapter
  18. Luis GarzaTexas A&M International University Chapter
  19. Madison RinioUniversity of Tennesee-Knoxville Chapter
  20. Mater Dolorosa OsuekeSharpstown International School Chapter
  21. Maya PragerSan Francisco State University Chapter
  22. Nicholas ReindersEagle Chapter (Embry-Riddle University)
  23. Olivia GreenbergUniversity of Virginia Chapter
  24. Francis WilsonWestern Kentucky University Chapter
  25. Rachael SunIndiana University Bloomington Chapter
  26. Salwa SabaBelmont University Chapter
  27. Samuel GarciaNorthwestern University Chapter
  28. Samuel KaplanLuther College Chapter
  29. Sasha MagloireMedgar Evers College Preparatory School Chapter
  30. Sharon NapierMarshall University Chapter
  31. Shawn MeyerNew York University Chapter
  32. Shyon SmallMedgar Evers College Preparatory School Chapter
  33. Trent Small-TownsUniversity of Mississippi Chapter
  34. Tristen Callis – University of Tennesee-Knoxville Chapter
  35. William ViethUniversity of Pennsylvania Chapter

Thank you

Super Team Pengyou!

Team Pengyou would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of the organizers, coaches and Fellows for making this event possible. You are the heart and soul of Project Pengyou. We would also like to give a HUGE shout-out to our Leadership fellow and coach, Kathleen He for her heroic effort and contribution helping organize this summit. Finally, we would like to thank our funders, the Committee of 100 and the Ford Foundation who generously support the Golden Bridges Foundation and make these trainings possible.

Check out more highlights in our photo gallery!

Want to become a Leadership Fellow? Read more here and keep up to date on our next Leadership Training Summit.