The University of Dayton tour bus slowly wound through miles of a perfectly landscaped community, offering us a bird’s-eye view of what, incredibly enough, was farmland less than two decades ago. Row upon row of high-rise apartments, gleaming corporate buildings, a street full of banks, five-star hotels, natural lakes — and even a Ferris wheel — popped before our eyes.
“It’s a corporate Disneyland,” said Devon Schreiber, a 22-year-old UD MBA student from Cleveland. “I can’t believe how extensive this is, and everything is so incredibly maintained.”
Welcome to Suzhou Industrial Park, home of the new University of Dayton China Institute. President Dan Curran, a small group of faculty, staff and students, and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company traveled nearly 7,000 miles to celebrate UDCI’s grand opening, slated for Aug. 8
Actually, industrial park is a misnomer. This is a city built on innovation, Curran told faculty at a lunch forum last year. Nearly 1 million people live and work here. It’s the location of choice for a third of the world’s Fortune 500 companies.
“When we compare an industrial park in Ohio to this, it’s just a postage stamp,” observed former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, part of the delegation. “This is unreal. It’s built on a superhuman scale. It’s almost like a company town, except it’s a megatown.”
Earlier in the day, Pat Donnelly, associate provost for faculty affairs, and his wife, Brenda, a sociologist, discovered people ballroom dancing and practicing tai chi in the streets of nearby Shanghai before offices opened. For Americans, it was a startling, almost stunning sight.
That’s how many of us felt when we caught our first glimpse of Suzhou Industrial Park.