Project Pengyou Chapter Reunion and Leadership Retreat 2017 Recap

Group photo!

On June 4-5, 2017 we held our annual Project Pengyou Chapter Reunion & Leadership Retreat. This year’s event was hosted by the Project Pengyou American University Chapter in Washington, DC. For the third year in a row, Chapter leaders from across the United States gathered to celebrate and learn from each other.For more photo highlights see our gallery!


DAY 1:
A Year of Growth and Learning

AU Chapter Founder, Dan Keesey
AU Chapter Founder, Dan Keesey

Since early 2014, Project Pengyou Chapters across the nation have been learning and growing together into a maturing network of leaders in a grassroots movement to improve US-China relations from the ground up. In the 2016-17 academic year, the US – China relationship has been challenging, and Project Pengyou Chapters have responded by learning how to create empathetic and inclusive spaces in campus communities around the country.

It was a powerful feeling to be together in Washington, DC discussing real challenges and successes each Chapter has faced throughout the year. After each Chapter gave individual presentations based on their strengths, we talked as a group about how to improve together to create a positive impact on campus. Each Chapter brought their own expertise in areas of leadership, including how to build a strong team, effective recruitment methods, and even how to collect and implement data analysis to strengthen your organization.

Although it’s a Chapter Reunion, there is always a mixing of new and old Pengyous due to the sheer geographical distance from Chapter to Chapter which spans the coasts. Some individuals have a longtime involvement with their Chapter and the network, and others are new and getting to know each other for the first time! Because of this, we also include many fun ice-breaker activities so that everyone can get to know each other.

A fun group energizer and icebreaker, led by Leslie!
A fun group energizer and icebreaker, led by Leslie!

Power in Alumni

Alumni panelists Annabel (PPLF ’14), Nathan (PPLF ’14), Azuraye (PPLF ’14), Michele (PPLF ’14) and Anisa (PPLF ’14) share career-building wisdom.

In addition to current Chapter builders, alumni of the Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows program also came out in force to share their wisdom. Many Pengyou alumni are currently working in fields of international exchange and have put the skills they learned and the connections they have built through their Chapter building efforts to use in their careers. They had a lot of cogent wisdom to share as recent graduates themselves, and it was inspiring to younger Pengyous to see the variety of choices and paths they could take to apply their passions as bridge builders.

This year, most of our alumni were young professionals from our first and second cohorts (March and October 2014). The full list of alumni attendants included:

  • Anisa Knox – PPLF ‘14, Swarthmore Chapter Founder
    Certified Mandarin Chinese Interpreter
  • Annabel Virella – PPLF ‘14, ERAU “Eagle” Chapter Founder
    GWU Graduate Student, Pickering Fellow
  • Azuraye Wycoff – PPLF ’14, CU Boulder Chapter Founder
    Director of Marketing & Client Relations, Full-Circle Talent
  • Christina Lu – PPLF ’14, SUNY Geneseo College Chapter Founder
    Program Associate,  Committee of 100
  • Leslie Martinez – ‎PPLF ’14, TAMIU Chapter Founder
    Intern, Congressman Cuellar’s Office
  • Michele Reyes – PPLF ‘14, Valparaiso Chapter Founder
    Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Respiratory Health Association in Chicago
  • Nate Gwira – PPLF ‘15, BCC Chapter Founder
    Rangel Fellow, Georgetown Grad Student
  • Sam Garcia – PPLF ‘15, Northwestern Chapter Founder
    Taiwan Scholar, Chinese Music at the National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Musicology
  • Sophie Wright – PPLF ’14, Grinnell Chapter
    Fulbright Teaching Fellow in Taiwan



Pengyou Cup Awards

In addition to learning and sharing, we also gathered to celebrate the collective and individual achievements of our Chapters during this academic year. Our annual Pengyou Cup award ceremony evaluates and rewards Chapters for their efforts based on their creativity, innovation, grit, and dedication to the mission of building bridges between the US and China.

There are five award categories including Chapter of the Year, which rewards more mature Chapters in the network that encompass all of the model qualities a Project Pengyou Chapter aspire to, the Rising Star award, which recognizes the efforts of fledgling Project Pengyou Chapters, the Media Master award, which credits Chapters for effective and innovative use of media, the Pengyou Hustle award, which admires the grit and tenacity of Chapter Builders in particularly challenging environments or situations, and the Lifelong Pengyou Award, which recognizes an individual in the network who as an alumni continues to work to build capacity and inspire new generations of Pengyous. This year, the following Chapters received awards for their efforts:

1. Media Master

Binghamton University Chapter 

2. Pengyou Hustle Award

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) Chapter

Congratulations to this year's Pengyou Hustle award winner, the TAMIU Chapter!
Congratulations to this year’s Pengyou Hustle award winner, the TAMIU Chapter!

3. Rising Star Award

Binghamton University Chapter

4. Chapter of the Year

3rd Place: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the “Eagle” Chapter

2nd Place: University of California, Berkeley Chapter

1st Place: Western Kentucky University Chapter

This year's Chapter of the Year winners, (except the Eagle Chapter who were in China and not pictured)
This year’s Chapter of the Year winners, (except the Eagle Chapter who were in China and not pictured)

5. Lifelong Pengyou Award

Leslie Martinez, 2014 PPLF and TAMIU Chapter Founder

Congratulations again to all of this year’s Pengyou Cup winners! We are very proud of the achievements you have reached together.


DAY 2:
A Lesson in Diplomacy

Pengyous visit the State Department for a diplomacy simulation
Pengyous visit the State Department for a diplomacy simulation

On the second day of the Reunion and Leadership Retreat, we all headed to the State Department to receive a briefing on the current state of affairs in US-China relations and participate in a diplomatic simulation.

It was a special treat because this simulation will soon be a new program offered to student groups, and ours was one of the first to pilot it. After sitting down and being given a brief introduction to the activity, the Pengyous were each given different identities and split into teams representing several interest groups at a UN summit to discuss a Non-Proliferation Treaty. Over the course of the simulation, each person had to take on the identity of the group they represented and act according to that groups’ specific interests, with each group having various goals and restrictions. By the end of the activity, everyone had gotten a glimpse of what it might be like to serve as an international diplomat and a healthy appreciation for the difficulty of diplomatic work in a complicated geopolitical climate.


China Stories Past, Present and Future

Kan Xiao sharing his vision for connecting Pengyous through communication technology

Following the simulation, we were invited to the Johns Hopkins SAIS campus to hear from Madelyn Ross, associate director of SAIS China & director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center Washington office, as well as Franklin Eneh, Program Manager of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, as they each told the story of their own China journeys.

We also had the pleasure of hearing from the Channel Manager from China Telecom

Madelyn Ross, Associate Director of SAIS China, tells her China journey
Madelyn Ross, Associate Director of SAIS China, tells her China journey

Americas, Kan Xiao, who described how he made his way to the United States and shared his vision for how telecommunications technology could connect people across cultures. He described how China Telecom has developed an innovative new product that allows Chinese students studying in the US and American students in China to keep only one sim card, cutting down on the hassle of switching to a new one upon arrival in the foreign country.

We’d like to thank the Johns Hopkins SAIS team for being gracious hosts and sharing their time, space, and enthusiasm with all of our Pengyous, Kan Xiao and the China Telecom (Americas) team for their donation which supported our efforts for this year’s Chapter Reunion, and finally all of the Leadership Fellows, Chapter builders, and alumni who took the time and effort to spend a weekend of sharing with us in DC. Finally, we’d like to thank our hosts, the Project Pengyou American University Chapter, for helping to make this year’s reunion possible!

We were thrilled to see so many of the Chapter leaders in D.C., and we look forward to continue building this movement together with you all!






About our Collaborators for the 2017 Chapter Reunion

SAIS China

A division of The Johns Hopkins University, The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC, is a global institution offering students a truly international perspective on today’s critical issues. SAIS China, the umbrella for all of SAIS activities involving China, is anchored by the China Studies Program in DC. The program features a superb faculty with considerable experience both within and outside academe, from work in government and multilateral organizations to NGOs and foundations. Courses range from Chinese leadership and foreign policy, economic and political reform, and human rights and law, to China’s environment, military, and growing involvement in Africa and beyond. SAIS China also encompasses The HopkinsNanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies, the preeminent and longest running educational collaboration between the US and the PRC. In partnership with Nanjing University, the Center’s graduate programs offer students the opportunity to learn from top Chinese and international scholars in a bilingual and bicultural environment in China. SAIS students also have the opportunity to spend a year at Tsinghua University taking courses in English toward a dual MA degree from SAIS and Tsinghua. SAIS China offers unparalleled training for future leaders and thinkers who will address China’s evolving role in the world. Learn more:

China Telecom (Americas)

Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, China Telecom Americas is the largest international subsidiary of China Telecom Corporation Limited, as well as the only authorized re-seller of domestic Chinese telecom products to North American companies.  China Telecom Americas has offices in 31 countries, providing access to Chinese telecom network assets for customers in the United States, Canada and Latin America. Recently, the company has developed an innovative new product which will allow study abroad students to keep only one sim card that can be used internationally instead of switching upon arrival in a foreign country.

China Telecom Americas’ mission is to deliver high-quality data and voice solutions and services between the Americas and China to businesses and carriers.  China Telecom Americas is committed to providing unparalleled service and support. Our company’s service philosophy, FocusOne™ provides one-stop for a full suite of telecommunications service. Learn more:


Stay tuned for the next round of Leadership Fellows Training Summit applications opening in July, and check out the photo highlights from the Chapter Reunion and Retreat in our gallery!