This piece was written by Paul Sherman, Harvard Kennedy School.
Qiushi Liu has taken advantage of his year as a Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations visiting fellow with the Nonprofits in China domain. Since arriving in October 2010 from Beijing’s Tsinghua University, Liu has been busily checking out classes at the Harvard Kennedy School, swapping ideas with Harvard professors and soaking up the lessons offered by New England’s history.
The reason he came here was simple.
“Some of my colleagues have visited here,” Liu says, “and they told me (there are) many interesting courses here and many good teachers and researchers. I thought I could find many good teachers here, and exchange ideas with them here.
“Also, I wanted to find out the secret of Harvard Kennedy School, about how the teachers here and all over Harvard University foster leadership in students.”
Liu’s research currently focuses on two things. One is to increase Chinese NGOs’ work in HIV/AIDS prevention and control. The other is to track China and other countries’ NGO participation in crisis management.
To make the most of his time here in enhancing his research skills, Liu has sat in on a number of classes since coming to Cambridge. These include Professor Christopher Barr’s “Quantitative Analysis and Empirical Methods,” Professor Robert Triest’s Macroeconomic Theory and Policy” and Professor Ronald Heifitz’s “Leadership on the Line.”
“On one hand, certainly I benefit from the content of what is taught in the class,” Liu believes. “On the other hand, I’m also trying to observe how the teachers teach their class. That is also very useful to me.
“Besides attending the courses, I’m also exchanging ideas with other teachers. I spoke often with Professor Arnold Howitt, who does a lot of research on preparation for crisis management, about how NGOs and NPOs participate in crises, and with Joan Kaufman, from the AIDS Public Policy Project. That’s a big project of mine, how NGOs and NPOs participate in HIV/AIDS prevention. I also went to a lecture about how the governments and NGOs in Indonesia dealt with the Tsunami. The teachers here have been very helpful in telling me about cases or some websites where I can find documents that can help in my research.”
In addition to a visit by his wife and daughter, in spring 2011 Liu attended classes such as Hauser Center Faculty Director Christopher Stone’s “Strategic Management of Nonprofit and Nongovernmental Organizations” and Dean Williams’ “Exercising Leadership: The Politics of Change.”
But one of the most inspirational experiences of Liu’s Harvard stay did not happen on campus.
“Just before Thanksgiving Day, the Ash Center—because they have so many visiting Chinese scholars and students—organized a trip to the Mayflower and Plimouth Plantation and Plymouth Rock,” Liu explained. “That was a wonderful trip.
“Afterwards, I searched on the Internet to find more information about the Mayflower. I found some comments about the importance of the Mayflower, and I also found some information about the Mayflower Compact. That compact is very simple, maybe just one page, but it’s very important, maybe even the most important document in American history. I think the contents of it are very important to American civil society. After the trip, I also re-read Democracy in America by de Tocqueville. After I read the book again, and after the trip, I think I have some new ideas about American society and the spirit of America. I found that there’s a strong spirit in American society to be regulated by the people themselves: self-regulation and self-discussion. For any problem, they will establish an association to discuss it and search for a solution.
“In China, many scholars discuss how to encourage the citizens to build up a civil society. So this issue has something to do with my research. ”