Project Pengyou Chapter Reunion and Leadership Retreat 2016 Highlights

Group photo from the Leadership retreat!

This June, for the second time since the launch of the Project Pengyou Chapter Network in March 2014, Project Pengyou Chapter Leaders from across the United States gathered at the University of Maryland to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and learn from each other.

Pengyous Across Generations

Claremont Colleges Chapter Leader, Bob Zeng

Since the initial Leadership Training Summit at Harvard in 2014 where the idea for Leadership Fellows to build Project Pengyou chapters at their home university was planted, we’ve grown a lot together.

From June 12-13, 2016, 16 Project Pengyou Chapters traveled from across the country to attend the second annual Chapter Reunion and Leadership Retreat, which was again hosted by the Project Pengyou University of Maryland Chapter. With two years of chapter building and three cohorts of Project Pengyou Leadership Fellows, many of whom have graduated and are pursuing careers in various fields, the network is becoming multi-faceted and taking on depth. Multiple generations of Chapter Leaders joined for the reunion including those who established chapters two years ago who shared their experiences, as well as new Chapter Leaders who are eager to learn and organize activities in their communities.

Sharing Strengths and Overcoming Challenges

Chapter Leaders from the Western Kentucky University Chapter Leaders

During the year, our Chapters across the country have been strategic and thoughtful when planning their activities and during the first day of the Reunion we heard tips from each Chapter on specific aspects of leadership and organizing, including building a team, recruiting new members, and more. From panels helping to build professional skills to creative campaigns raising dialogue surrounding rhetoric towards China in the media, our Chapters have been busy this year.

Peppered between presentations sharing tips and advice for building a successful chapter, each of the attendants got a chance to share their personal story of why they see themselves as a leader and bridge-builder. These stories not only allow the leaders to practice their public speaking skills, but also bring us all closer as we understand each person better and empathize with them. Although several of the Chapter leaders came to the reunion not knowing any of the other leaders personally, by the end of just two days we all felt like old friends.  See the full list of attendees here:

Following a full day, we headed to a local Chinese restaurant for a banquet and awards ceremony! This year, the following chapters received awards for their chapter building efforts:

After dinner, we celebrated University of Wisconsin-Madison Chapter founder, Hong-En’s, birthday with KTV and even the restaurant’s laoban (boss) sang along! Team Pengyou can never resist KTV, and so there were rousing renditions of Beyonce, Backstreet Boys, and Bieber as well as a few Chinese classics like “茉莉花”(Mo li hua, Jasmine Flower), “老鼠爱大米” (Laoshu Ai Da mi, Like a Mouse loves Rice), and of course, “朋友”!

Company Visits with PPLF Alumni

a discussion with PPLF alumni, Han Chen at the NRDC office
a discussion with PPLF alumni, Han Chen at the NRDC office

The next morning, we split into two groups to go visit Pengyou alumni who are currently working in Washington DC. One group went to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), where Han Chen, a Leadership Fellow from our first cohort, told us about environmental advocacy and how their organization works in China. We got a rare chance to ask in depth questions about the NRDC’s initiatives and even got the chance to get a tour around the office afterwards!

The other group went to visit another Leadership Fellow from the first cohort, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, at the Foreign Policy Magazine office. Although Bethany was prevented from seeing us due to a canceled flight, we were welcomed by David Wertime, the founder of Tea Leaf Nation, who gave insights into writing, journalism, and especially journalists in China.

Pengyous at the office of Foreign Policy Magazine
Pengyous at the office of Foreign Policy Magazine

Lunch and a Lecture with Martin Gold

Special Guest Speaker, Martin Gold
Special Guest Speaker, Martin Gold

In the afternoon, we had the pleasure of listening to the esteemed lawyer and activist, Martin Gold, who spoke to us about the Chinese Exclusion Act. Although the Chinese Exclusion Act is usually a blip on American historical education, its effects are far-reaching on not only Chinese Americans, but the US-China bilateral relationship. The exclusion of Chinese people lasted about 70 years, and odd, notions of “other” and prejudice against Chinese and Chinese Americans have lasted much longer than that.

Hearing of this history was not only fascinating, but instilled a new sense of purpose in the need for bridge-building efforts. Pengyous who are armed with this historical knowledge and context will be much better equipped to fight xenophobia and stereotypes in US-China relations they may come across in the future.

A Panel of Young Bridge-Builders

Finally, we finished the day with a panel of speakers ranging in age and experience who are building careers in the US-China space. They had solid advice for Pengyous about the need for courage, patience, and resilience when starting out in a multi-cultural work environment. Chief Pengyou and founder of Project Pengyou, Holly Chang, as well as Vice Chair of the board of Golden Bridges, Mei Yan, moderated the event as well as shared some wisdom of their own:

“Make a friend first; that is the start of everything. You are all in Project Pengyou, in the business of making friends. If you can really make people trust you and bring you into their circle, things will go a lot more smoothly.” – Mei Yan

The tips, advice, and wise words were just what many in the audience were hoping to hear as they prepare to transition into careers of their own (for a full recap of the speaker event, check out our blog).

We were thrilled to see so many of the Chapter leaders in D.C., hear about their successes and learn from the challenges of this year. We are looking forward to watching the Chapters continue to grow next year!

Silly group photo

Stay tuned for news about our next Leadership Fellows Training Summit and check out the photo highlights from the Chapter Reunion and Retreat in our gallery!