In recent years, a growing number of American universities have opened offices, and even campuses, in China.
Gregory Marchi has just done the opposite. As the first U.S. representative of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, he will lead the expansion of one of mainland China's leading business schools into the United States, developing its executive-education and M.B.A. programs and building partnerships with American universities.
"We're a school doing something that's not been done for the past 200 years—going from East to West," says Sun Baohong, Cheung Kong's associate dean of global programs, who helped recruit Mr. Marchi. "We're opposite the traffic."
Founded 11 years ago, Cheung Kong is a rarity in China: a private, independent educational institution, and the only business school with faculty governance. Its reputation has soared, and its alumni include some of China's most prominent business leaders, like Jack Ma, an e-commerce pioneer and founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, and Fu Chengyu, chairman of the oil giant Sinopec.
After opening offices in Hong Kong and London, Cheung Kong has turned toward the United States. While it has no plans to establish a full-fledged branch campus in America, Mr. Marchi, who is based in New York, aims to build on the school's strength in educating mid- and upper-level executives. It wants to offer executive-M.B.A. programs, perhaps joining with top-ranking American universities to offer dual or joint degrees.
Cheung Kong will also put on specialized programs and events with a China focus. For instance, together with the Yale School of Management, it recently organized the China India Insights Conference, an annual forum on business in both countries and other emerging markets. Cheung Kong will also provide custom training to American or multinational companies on specific aspects of working in China.
Mr. Marchi, who is 55, sees Cheung Kong as complementing, not competing with, American graduate schools. The business school can tap its alumni base of more than 4,200 Chinese business leaders to participate in its programs, and it already has three Western-educated, Chinese-born faculty members, including Ms. Sun, in the United States.
What it offers, Mr. Marchi says, is a Chinese perspective on China. "Our core strength is doing business in China," he says. "That's an area where we can add value."
In that sense, Mr. Marchi himself may seem like a surprising choice for his new role. While he has consulted with companies working in China, he could hardly be called a China hand.
Indeed, his international experience at his most recent job was in another region of the world. At Duke Corporate Education, he helped start and run the London office, which was focused on Europe and Africa. The company, which provides executive and business education, was started by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
But Ms. Sun, who helped hire Mr. Marchi, says his lack of expertise in China is far outweighed by his work at one of the world's best-regarded corporate-education programs. Cheung Kong administrators had been searching for nearly three years for the right person to lead the American office. "He knows how to be entrepreneurial, innovative, fast-moving," she says. "That spirit is very aligned with CKGSB."
Mr. Marchi, who previously worked in marketing and at a start-up company, says he was attracted by the pathbreaking nature of Cheung Kong's work in the United States.
After a decade at Duke Corporate Education, he had risen to become managing director. At the same time, the company had matured from fledgling upstart to global leader. When a colleague mentioned the position at Cheung Kong, Mr. Marchi was excited by the challenges of building an office from scratch.
"I'm an entrepreneurial-type guy," he says. "I like the excitement."