The past and the future converge in Hong Kong

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Chicago Booth's Mt. Davis campus' promenade deck

An incredible amount has happened since my last blog post when I let everyone know that our Executive MBA Program was open for business in Hong Kong.

Construction on the new building on Mount Davis that will house the Chicago Booth Asia campus is well underway. The foundation and site works on the iconic building designed by the late Bing Thom is coming along well. It is a tough site to work on because it is very compact, it is on a steep slope, there are lots of trees that need to be protected and of course it is Hong Kong so there can be a lot of rain! But we have an expert team working on it and they are making excellent progress. Below you can see the current site, and a sneak peek of what it will look like when it’s finished:

Arial View of the new Mt. Davis Booth Campus under construction

Construction site for the new Hong Kong campus on Mount Davis

Mt. Davis view to sea

This is a visual of the completed Mount Davis campus in Hong Kong. 

We celebrated the school’s permanent expansion into Asia at a naming ceremony for the Mount Davis campus in November 2016. Francis Yuen, a 1978 graduate of the University of Chicago, and his wife Rose, were honored for their generous gift to the school and for their dedicated service to the University when it was announced that the center would be named the University of Chicago Francis and Rose Yuen Center in Hong Kong.

In addition, we also announced the establishment of a long-term relationship with The Hong Kong Jockey Club which includes a grant to the University of Chicago and Chicago Booth in the amount of HK $230 million (US $30 million). The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust will support the Center in a number of ways. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Chicago Booth Academic Complex, part of the Yeun Center, will serve as the campus for our prestigious Executive MBA Program here in Asia. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Heritage Preservation Project will enable the university to maintain the history of the Mt. Davis site and enable the public to enjoy access to a site that had previously been closed, but which now will be available for many years to come.

The Mt. Davis site, on which we are building the Center, has a really interesting history. It is situated at the western end of Hong Kong Island, overlooking the sea. Originally it was part of the Jubilee Battery which was constructed in the late 1930s to reinforce the defense to the western approach of the Victoria Harbour. After the Second World War, the site and Jubilee Battery fell into disuse. It was later converted into the British Army Royal Engineer’s Mess and Quarters in the 1950s. It served that function until 1961, when the site was further converted for the use of the Special Branch of the Hong Kong Police Force. The Victoria Road Detention Centre, as it became known, or “White House” as the locals call it, served during this period to incarcerate and interrogate political detainees during the 1967 riots in Hong Kong. The site is of important historical significance as it gives us a glance into the history of the Special Branch in Hong Kong and its former use as detention centre. It was also witness to the change of the political environment of Hong Kong as a result of the extension of communist influence in Asia in the post-war period.1 The site has mostly remained closed since it was abandoned in the late 1960s, with the occasional use as a training ground for the Hong Kong police or as a film set. (You can see it in the movie Lust, Caution by Taiwanese Director Ang Lee). The Heritage Preservation Project will allow us to restore the historic buildings on the site, and create a Hong Kong Jockey Club University of Chicago Heritage Courtyard and Interpretation Center as an integral part of the site where people can visit to learn about its history.

We are also very excited about the Hong Kong Jockey Club Program on Social Innovation, which will be supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club grant.  The Program on Social Innovation will be run and managed by Chicago Booth’s Social Enterprise Initiative in partnership with the Jockey Club. The goal of this program is to strengthen the social impact sector by helping to develop charity, social service and NGO leaders in Hong Kong. This initiative will offer conferences on non-profit board development, social innovation programs, as well as other programming which will have a direct impact on developing the social and charitable sector in Hong Kong. In addition to the programming, the grant will support two full-tuition scholarships each year to our Executive MBA Program for highly qualified candidates from the non-profit, social services sector, as well as eight additional scholarships per year for our non-degree Executive Education programs.

You can learn much more about the building, the gifts and what the University has planned in Hong Kong by watching this video.

The construction of the Yuen Center building itself is on schedule for completion in summer of 2018. This means that students who join the Executive MBA program in Hong Kong with next year’s cohort in June 2018 will take all of their classes in the new building. Asia campus students starting in June 2017 will finish their final quarters of the program at the new facility – so plenty of time to get a great experience in the new campus. Until the building opens, students will continue to study at our state-of-the art campus at Cyberport, just down the road from the Mt. Davis site.

1 Historical information is from “White House e-summary document” by May Ho, at The Centre for Architectural Heritage Research