As the United States and China negotiate their complex geopolitical relationship, developing cultural and linguistic understanding between the people of these two world powers is more important than ever. We must cultivate American and Chinese students who are familiar and comfortable with each other’s society, history, language and culture. That way, as our two countries become more intertwined, the relationship can develop on the foundation of trust and effective communication. To this end, China Learning Initiatives strategizes and executes a multitude of projects aimed at making Mandarin language learning in the US mainstream, and generating engaging, relevant, and approachable learning content about China for the American public.
Meet the China Learning Initiatives team
Rob de Picciotto
Rob has been in cross-cultural education for his entire career. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in History, he traveled to Asia to explore the world. He has held a range of roles from teacher and academic manager to curriculum developer and marketer in several educational organizations in both New York and China. Rob also pursued an MBA at Tsinghua University toward the goal of starting an education consultancy in Beijing that provides soft skills training and cultural orientation for Chinese students planning to study in the U.S.
Beyond the classroom, Rob has pushed himself to experience new cultures and understand different worldviews. His decisions to study in the American Midwest and Europe, and to live and work in China, India, and Hong Kong all reflect Rob’s passion for understanding across cultures, reconciling differences, and helping others cultivate tolerance and perspective.
Rob is continuing this life-long effort through his contributions to Asia Society, where he works to expand the reach and impact of the China Learning Initiatives.
Yang graduated from Columbia University with a master’s degree in public administration, as well as from the School of Chinese Language and Literature at Beijing Normal University with a bachelor’s degree. She was the Chinese Environment-Friendly Youth Ambassador, designated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China. As an awards winner, organizer and a participant of dozens of global and national competitions, conferences, and youth exchange programs, she is passionate about bridging U.S. and China relations through cultural exchange and partnership-building.
Senior Program Associate
Yun focuses on working with teachers across Asia Society’s national network of Chinese language programs and has expertise in providing professional development for Chinese language teachers. She created and designed Asia Society’s TEQ instructional video series. She also takes charge of the operation of Asia Society Confucius Classrooms Network and provides guidance and advice on school-to-school partnerships for schools in the U.S. and China. Yun is an experienced Chinese language teacher herself and taught Mandarin in the New York City public schools, as well as at an innovative program at Bard College that provides the opportunity for a rigorous liberal arts education to incarcerated men and women in the New York State prison system. She has advanced degrees in Foreign Language Education from New York University and in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics from East China Normal University, and is a graduate of Zhejiang University. She is a talented linguist with a wealth of knowledge of modern and classical Chinese language and literature. She speaks Chinese, English, and German.
Jeff is responsible for leading and advancing China Learning Initiatives’ work in creating programs and platforms that catalyze understanding, communication, and collaboration among young people in the United States and China.
In this position, he oversees the largest annual conference on Mandarin language education in North America, whose keynote roster includes former prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, former US defense secretary Chuck Hagel, and former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. He initiated and oversees the support of 100 pairs of US-China sister schools. Jeff also advises education leaders in both China and the U.S. on building innovative, substantive, and mutually beneficial partnerships—including the planning for the annual official U.S.–China State and Province Chief Education Officers Dialogue.
Jeff speaks and writes frequently on the importance and practicalities of youth and young leaders exchange in the context of an interconnected world. Before joining Asia Society in 2007, Jeff worked at the Connecticut Department of Higher Education and on the state’s academic exchange initiatives with Germany and China. He speaks English, Chinese and German, and has lived and worked in New York, Shanghai, Heidelberg, and Hartford, Connecticut.
Senior Program Associate
Yi leads the planning of the National Chinese Language Conference, maintains the China Learning Initiatives website, manages digital resources, and produces a monthly newsletter, Chinese Language Matters. She also curates resources and content in the areas of school-to-school partnerships and exchanges. She graduated from Bowdoin College in 2008 with a double major in Asian studies and psychology and a minor in economics. At Bowdoin, she also initiated the idea of petitioning for a Chinese major and minor, which was realized in 2012. Yi also studied in Beijing and worked as a travel leader for Windsor Mountain International, bringing high school students to China. She speaks English, Chinese, Fujianese, and Spanish.