"We must draw into our conversations colleagues from our own institution, who are not area specialists, but are doing things internationally," said Wong, "In a sense, this is the domestic end of international collaboration."
are eager to identify cross-campus opportunities that may lead to innovative solutions to some of the issues being faced by particular countries and regions.
Wong was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of a Chinese immigrant father and an ethnically Chinese mother who was born and raised in Hawaii. He went to primary school in Tonawanda, N.Y., in the 1950s when his family had an Irish American milkman as a neighbor on one side and an Italian American bar tender and a Jewish professor of philosophy at SUNY Buffalo living across the street. Growing up in a diverse community made him aware of cultural variations well before he entered graduate school to study European history and ended up focusing on Chinese history.
Initially, Wong was drawn to the study of Asia because he realized that much of what he was learning about the world as based on a narrow perspective of how European history developed. "Our education overlooked the important history in East Asia, and China specifically, and I always felt that we couldn’t have a good sense of how the world really developed historically until we included Asia."
Before joining UCLA in 2004, Wong was a professor at the University of Michigan and later the director of the Center for Asian Studies at UC Irvine, where he was also Chancellor's Professor of History and Economics.
Nationally, Wong is on the advisory board for LinkAsia, an innovative weekly video news magazine that reports Asian news from journalists working for Asian news organizations. He has also written or co-authored more than 70 articles published in North America, East Asia and Europe and in five different languages in journals that reach diverse audiences within and beyond academia.
In addition, he and the Asia Institute have developed collaborative programs for faculty and graduate students in Shanghai and Hong Kong. But there have been other alliances. The Asia Institute, under Wong’s leadership, has collaborated with the Kreddha Foundation, a Dutch NGO involved in mediation work and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Other possible partners for UCLA include the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and Utrecht University.
"If global education is to be meaningful, it will have to involve the active collaboration of parties in different parts of the world framing and formulating activities in a multilingual environment," Wong said. "To develop an understanding of Asia, our students and faculty must view the world from an Asian perspective, rather than an American one — to look out from the U.S. but to also look back through Asian lenses.
"That’s precisely why in global education we have to have students who really
study there," he said. "We must also encourage Asian students to study here because to have Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asian and Southeast Asian students on our campuses in the same classes and conversations promotes a higher level of understanding and perspective."