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Traveling to China with Dean Pirkul

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Mo City
Clinton, Rubio and Mao

My name is Hua Bai, and I’m graduating from the Jindal School of Management this May with an MS in Marketing and Information Technology Management. I grew up in China and came to UT Dallas two years ago. When I started working for the Jindal School of Management Development and Alumni Relations office as a student worker last summer, I created the JSOM WeChat account, @JindalSchoolUTD. WeChat is a mobile app of choice for hundreds of millions of users in China, where Facebook and Instagram are unavailable. The app aims to help JSOM connect with more than 2,000 graduates in China.

As a result of that work, I was lucky and grateful to get involved with JSOM Dean Hasan Pirkul’s China visit last year.

There is a saying, “Well begun is half done”; yet there is another saying, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” That last one applied to us. After our first flight got canceled due to Hurricane Patricia and all the connection drama, four of us, Dean Pirkul, Erica Yaeger, JSOM assistant dean of development and alumni relations; Mary Beth Goodrich, an accounting faculty member and faculty advisor of ASCEND; and I finally made it to our hotel in Shanghai 15 minutes before the first reception for the JSOM alumni began. With the help of our dedicated alum volunteers, everything was set up right before our first alum showed up.

Mo City

Alumna Ri Xu (left) with Hua Bai, author of this post, in Shanghai last October

Shanghai is known as the financial center of China and “Mo City” — modern, mojo — to a lot of Chinese. To me, people from Shanghai or living in Shanghai have been stereotyped as being well-dressed. Our 50-plus alumni showing up that day easily fit the stereotype. Most of them graduated in 2013 and 2014. The majority of them were in finance and passionate about what they do. They exchanged business cards professionally and shared their opinions on industries and the economy.

I have two warm memories of the night. One involves two alumni, both working for GE, who had never met each other until the reception. The other involves another alum, who found his significant other at SMU in Dallas and brought her to our Shanghai reception. Way to go, Comets!

As for me, I had a little reunion with the former vice president of FACSS (Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars), Ri Xu, a May 2015 MS in Finance alumna. She’s a native Shanghai, and had just gotten back and was looking for jobs in finance.

We started our magical day eating pretzel snacks from American Airlines and ended the day devouring some delicious jellyfish in Shanghai. Early next morning, I took full advantage of the grand view of the Huangpu River from my hotel room and rushed down to one of the most famous pan-fried meat bun shops in Shanghai, Yang’s Dumplings (小杨生煎). As I enjoyed my two-hour window as a tourist and appreciated this authentic Shanghainese breakfast, Dallas felt far, far away.

A serving of Yang’s dumplings
The view of the Huangpu River, with the foreground filled with skyscrapers, from my hotel room

Clinton, Rubio and Mao

Thanks to Dean Pirkul’s timely insight, we fled from the wrong gate at the Shanghai airport at the last minute and arrived in Beijing after two hours. After we landed, I took a deep breath — 100 percent crisp air (nothing smoggy) that I was so familiar with.

I spent my college years in Beijing and started my first job there as a project manager for three years before I came to America. In my opinion, Beijing as a city has a completely different vibe, which was even true at our alumni reception. Compared to our alums in Shanghai, alums in Beijing are not necessarily all Beijingers — in fact, only a small portion of them were born in Beijing. They represent multiple industries, from IT to retail. Quite a few alums who graduated in 2012 and even earlier than that showed up. People greeted each other warmly, and sounds of laughter were everywhere. Alums were lining up to take selfies with Dean Pirkul and cheering when he promised that next time he would buy everybody beers. One alum actually told me that he took a half-day off to avoid the rush-hour traffic and be there on time. In what was becoming a new custom, we again found two alumni, both working for PwC Beijing who had never met each other

Engagement on our Jindal WeChat account skyrocketed when we posted photos and update with Dean Pirkul.

The hotel we stayed at in Beijing was very close to Tiananmen Square. But since we were always on the go, we didn’t get to experience any communist atmosphere, until one day our chauffeur decided to take Chang’an Avenue, a major east-west thoroughfare on the south side of Tiananmen Square, for a faster route. Realizing it was our last chance, I interrupted the hot presidential candidate conversation and reminded them, “Forget about Clinton and Rubio for one second! You are about to miss Chairman Mao!”

Engagement on our Jindal WeChat account skyrocketed when we posted photos and update with Dean Pirkul


The good momentum I received from both JSOM alumni chapters in China was only one of the perks of my nonstop five-day adventure. Besides the vitality of our alums, we also saw how innovative Chinese universities are (yes, China is innovative) by visiting Tsinghua Science Park (清华科技园) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University Science Park (上海交大科技园), where we learned what employers need from our students, met new alums and found out how to further boost job placement by visiting big companies like PwC Beijing. I was honored to be there hearing some of Dean Pirkul’s management wisdom, which somebody might call “Pirkulisms.”

However, when our plane landed in DFW after 17 hours, I was ready to be back to my other big bad adventure on this side of the ocean.

Hua Bai

Hua Bai

Hua is an MS Marketing and Information Technology and Management student at the Naveen Jindal School of Management. She is a student worker in the JSOM Development and Alumni Relations Office and Vice President of Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars at UT Dallas (FACSS-UTD). Hua helped launch the Jindal WeChat account and manages it day-to-day. She was a finalist for the 2016 UT Dallas Student Employee of the Year Award. Read more articles

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