Although in-person events in the United States remain restricted, Xudong Ni LLM’06 spearheaded three welcome events in China for incoming students of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s LLM Class of 2021.
Ni is an active and founding member of the Penn Law Alumni Club of China (PLACC) and worked with the Law School’s LLM Admissions team to coordinate three receptions for incoming students living in and near China this summer. The events were held in Beijing and Shanghai and featured a hybrid of both in-person and virtual attendance.“Xudong has been an outstanding leader in China of our alum,” Executive Director of Graduate Programs Elise Luce Kraemer L’93 said. “The events couldn’t have happened without him.”
The Law School at Penn’s five-week, five-credit pre-semester course sets the school’s LLM program apart from others. The program is academic in nature but traditionally includes several social events and a warm welcome from the Law School administration. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, this year’s program had to occur online, and many LLM students joined virtually from across the world.
In contrast, because China is now only reporting a few new cases of COVID-19 per day, people have largely been able to return to day-to-day activities, including participation in small in-person gatherings.
After graduating from Penn’s LLM program in 2006, Ni worked for a firm in the United States for one year. When he moved back to China to open a new Shanghai office for the firm, he realized that there was not an organized network of Penn’s Law School alumni in the country – so he called a few friends and started the club himself.
Ni expressed gratitude for the “generous support” of the fellow alumni with whom he worked to organize the events this summer. These alumni included Gang Luan LLM’08, Xun Zeng LLM’03 L’07, Binghao Zhao LLM’04 L’07 SJD’17, Weiwei Shen LLM’12 SJD’18, and six recent graduates of the LLM class of 2020 who just returned to China.
Ni explained PLACC often keeps their events informal.
“Most events we have done are very social events,” he said, “like hosting dinners for visiting professors.”
For the past six years, PLACC has coordinated welcome receptions for incoming LLM students who are based in and around China. In addition to enabling students to get to know their classmates, the welcome receptions also provide students with the opportunity to speak casually with program alumni. At the receptions, the alumni are encouraged to share experiences related to taking classes at the Law School, living in Philadelphia, and living in the United States. Often, students ask practical questions as well, such as how to rent an apartment off campus and whether alumni have outlines for particular classes that they are willing to share.
PLACC considered all three of this summer’s incoming student receptions to have been successful and well-attended. On July 31, seven incoming students and three alumni attended the Shanghai reception in person, with eleven more incoming students joining virtually. About a month later, eight incoming students and eight alumni attended the Beijing reception in person, with four students participating virtually. On September 4, at a joint-event with the Wharton Club of Shanghai, 20 students from the Law School and the Wharton MBA program gathered for a reception at Ni’s office.
Generally, PLACC schedules the welcome receptions to last for about two hours during the evening, but the group almost always ends up staying together for closer to three or four hours. Sometimes, students use the events as opportunities to bond with classmates by exploring areas of China that are unfamiliar to them.
After one student took a three-hour flight from Shenzhen to Beijing to attend this summer’s reception, he invited his new classmates to show him around the city.
“Close to midnight, they sent a message to the group saying, ‘We just finished the second reception!’” Ni said.
Especially as COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, Kraemer shared that it was “inspiring to see people getting together in person” prior to beginning their remote studies at the Law School at Penn this fall.
Read more about the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s venerated LLM program and its unique pre-term course here.