2016 STL-MISTI Summer Camp Promotes Socially Responsible Real Estate with Chinese Partner Universities



This summer, the STL Lab launched the pilot program of the STL-MISTI China Summer Camp initiative. From June to August 2016, two MIT student teaching teams visited universities in Hohhot, Shanghai, Qingdao, Xiamen, Chongqing, and Hong Kong, for two weeks each at a time. These unique summer camps pooled the knowledge of MIT and Chinese partner universities, ultimately cultivating a dynamic learning environment that maximized and celebrated the strengths of students from diverse backgrounds, while honing their socially responsible planning and entrepreneurship skills. Campers engaged in a cross-cultural educational exchange about social responsibility, urban planning, real estate, and entrepreneurship, with an emphasis on contextually relevant, real-world practices.

Students from both MIT and Chinese universities were immersed in Chinese real estate planning and culture. In addition to practicing their English and Mandarin skills and making new friends, students were deeply engaged with their summer camp work. Each group enjoyed daily lectures and presentations from their peers and MIT staff as well as classroom visits from respected architects and developers. They also played several rounds of the STL Lab’s socially responsible real estate game. Off-campus, students toured new development sites, examined historic districts, and visited local museums.

The MIT student teachers were divided into two groups: Team 1 and Team 2. At the Inner Mongolia Institute of Technology in Hohhot, Team 1 visited the grasslands to experience first-hand the site of a case study in tourist development and enjoyed a nuanced lecture on Mongolian architecture and its relationship to Mongolian religion. In Xiamen, Team 1 attended an impressive Open Forum hosted by Xiamen University, which featured scholars from China and the United States. They also visited luxury villas and beautiful parks that showcased traditional Chinese aesthetics in the area At Chongqing University, Team 2 visited the Chongqing Planning Museum, and enthusasitc students created a socially responsible real estate entrepreneurship club to extend the work of the STL-MISTI China Summer Camp. In Shanghai, at Tongji Zhejiang College, students practiced their entrepreneurship skills by making business pitches for novel products. During their visit to Qingdao University of Science and Technology, Team 2 visited the local cultural history museum, and summer campers performed independent research on the Liyuan—a local residential area with an uncertain future—to present innovative redevelopment ideas to their classmates and school faculty. Finally, in Hong Kong, Teams 1 and 2 visited historic preservation sites to expand their own ideas about socially responsible development and attended the Hong Kong Innovation Node, an event showcasing various MISTI-supported initiatives in Hong Kong.

The first STL-MISTI China Summer Camp was a huge success and continued to build the STL Lab’s relationship with Chinese educational institutions and Chinese youth. Students from MIT and China were able to collaboratively learn from one another while building and applying knowledge about socially responsible real estate and development in China and in the United States. There were many important lessons learned from this summer camp experience, which are already being implemented to ensure the continued growth of the program as the STL Lab beings to develop next year’s summer camp. As a part of the STL Lab’s mission to make the knowledge of land and building development more accessible and exciting for future generations of entrepreneurs, practitioners, policymakers and scholars, the 2016 summer camp represents an especially important program. By focusing on building, exchanging, and disseminating knowledge with young people, future generations can more fully explore the concept of socially responsible real estate and entrepreneurship in an increasingly global context. 

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