Office of the President

June 29, 2017

Seeding a healthier world

Ana Mari Cauce

Today I had the opportunity to once again meet with our Global Innovation Exchange partners during a visit to Tsinghua University. It’s a lush, beautiful campus, made even more vibrant by the fact that it was graduation season. There were countless graduates in caps and gowns all over the campus, posing for photos as they prepared to launch off into the world. It reminded me of our own commencement ceremonies just a couple weeks ago, and like then, I was inspired by the graduates’ optimism and how they have so much ahead of them.

Viewing a rendering of the soon-to-open GIX facility in Bellevue while visiting our partner, Tsinghua University

Two GIX students presented this wonderful painting of the soon-to-open GIX facility in Bellevue

As part of the visit, I had the tremendous honor of first receiving an honorary degree, in a way joining the ranks of Tsinghua’s graduates, and then taking part in the Global Vision Lectures series.

I centered my remarks (full text in Englishfull text in Chinese) around two basic ideas. The first is that through partnership, change is possible – no matter the scale of the challenge. And the second is that innovation lies at the heart of progress, and not simply innovation in the technical sphere, but in all areas of human endeavor. GIX is one example of this, as is the Population Health Initiative, which holds tremendous potential to improve health and well-being in Washington and around the world.

Of course, my favorite part of the lecture – just as it is when I’m in the classroom – is when I got to talk with the students in the audience. In a sign of just how interconnected our universities – and our nations – really are, two UW alumnae were among the students asking questions. One of them, a native of China, graduated from the Evans School, while the other, a native Seattleite, received her undergraduate degree at UW and had worked at Microsoft.

It was during this Q&A that a member of the first GIX cohort, which will soon be coming to Seattle for the second part of the GIX program, asked what the UW would provide when he and his colleagues arrive. My response to him was the same as it is to all our students: That’s up to him. We will provide boundless opportunities – world-class faculty, a unique student experience – but it is up to these students to seize them. I have no doubt that they – and he – will.

I also have no doubt that it won’t be long before we see a startup launched by a pair of GIX students – one from the UW and one from Tsinghua – and that it will be only the first of countless world-changing innovations that spring from the seeds of this partnership.