Jeffrey Lehman, Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, Speaks at USALI

On Thursday, February 27, Professor Jerome Cohen sat down with the Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, Jeffrey Lehman, to discuss his interest and involvement in law, China, and the first Sino-U.S. joint university, NYU Shanghai.

Over the course of an hour-long conversation with Professor Cohen, Professor Lehman walked the audience through his career development, beginning with his concentration in mathematics as an undergraduate at Cornell University, to his interest in tax law as a law student at the University of Michigan and in wealth redistribution as a law professor and Dean at that same alma mater, his tenure as the 11th President of Cornell University, his development of Peking University’s School of Transnational Law, and finally his role as the Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, where he oversees all academic and administrative operations.

Of special interest to Professor Cohen and the audience was Professor Lehman’s entry into China, which began in 1998 when he was part of a government-sponsored delegation of four American law deans on a visit to meet with several hundred of their counterparts in Beijing.  “It was a watershed moment in my life,” Professor Lehman recollected, one which led to his involvement over the last sixteen years in partnerships and joint programs between premier Chinese and American universities.

In his current role as Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, Professor Lehman’s main objective is to foster a sense of multiculturalism among the student body, which is currently comprised of 150 international and 150 Chinese students.  “It’s all about learning the skills of multicultural interaction, recognizing how people from different cultures can misunderstand one another, and, if you’re experienced with this kind of misunderstanding, how to practice techniques for getting beyond it and even benefiting from seeing situations from multiple perspectives,” he said. In the coming years, Professor Lehman intends on expanding the university to 2,000 students, with an incoming class of 500 students per year. When asked if the university will be able to host “sensitive speakers,” Professor Lehman responded, “Sure, we can invite anyone we choose. Of course, we can’t guarantee them a visa to enter China. But we talk about whatever we want on our campus.”

For more on NYU Shanghai, you can visit its main site here. Follow this link for a recent NPR feature on the university’s first matriculated class.

For more on Peking University’s School of Transnational law, please click here.

Jeffrey Lehman is the Vice Chancellor of NYU Shanghai, where he oversees all academic and administrative operations. Lehman is an internationally acclaimed leader in higher education, having served as dean of the University of Michigan Law School, the eleventh president of Cornell University, and the founding dean of the Peking University School of Transnational Law.

Prior to joining the University of Michigan Law School, Lehman served as law clerk to Frank M. Coffin, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Associate Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court. He then spent four years at Caplin & Drysdale, a Washington, D.C. law firm. Throughout his professional and academic career, Lehman has volunteered his time and energy to nonprofit organizations that share his commitments in the fields of higher education, law, and technology.

Vice Chancellor Lehman received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Cornell University, an M.P.P. from the University of Michigan, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. He is a multi-award winner for his work both in the US and abroad, including the Friendship Award, which is China’s highest honor for “foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress.” Lehman is also a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Peking University.