Joan Kaufman is currently the Senior Director for Academic Programs for the Schwarzman Scholars program based at Tsinghua University. Based in NY, she travels frequently to China. She has published widely over the years on China and global topics, has been a guest on the Sinica Podcast and Ta for Ta, recounting the many tales, both serious and ridiculous, of a long career of work, travel, and crazy experiences working in China since 1980. She will share some of the most memorable with you.

Joan came to China in 1980 as part of the first crew of the newly opened UN office in China. Deng Xiaoping had invited the UN to China in 1979 to help with the Four Modernizations and Joan came to help to mount a scientific census after the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution were finally over. She spent four years in Beijing working for UNFPA and witnessing the beginnings of China's transformation under the Open Door Policy. Since then, Joan has lived in China three more times for a total of 15 years, working on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and women's rights as the Ford Foundation Gender and Reproductive Health Program Officer, as the Director of Columbia University's Global Center for East Asia, and most recently as the Senior Director for Academic Programs for Schwarzman Scholars.

During her years at Ford Foundation, Joan was deeply involved in supporting China's burgeoning feminist movement in the years following the historic and catalytic Beijing women's conference and was an initial funder of the Domestic Violence Network that led eventually to the new law passed several years ago. Twenty years later in 2015, back in Beijing she organized a series of events for a 20 year review of the conference at the Columbia Global Center, bringing together the older generation of women's rights champions with the new generation for a reckoning on how far women had come in the last 20 years and the challenges ahead.

When not based in China, Joan has taught public health policy and run academic programs at Harvard, including the AIDS Public Policy program she founded aimed at mobilizing a response to China's AIDS epidemic in the early 2000s. She has been deeply engaged in China's AIDS response and has worked on and written about China and AIDS especially the important role of NGOs, many whom she has supported and worked with over the last 20 years.

During it all she raised two kids, dragging her family back and forth to China. Her daughter is truly the next generation of China scholars and her son is likely not far behind. She will share the challenges of being a working mom often on the road and the trade-offs of trying to do it all.

Please kindly note that spotlight dinners are women-only events. And since all proceeds from our ticket sales go straight to supporting our Bethel China, our charity of the year, all tickets are nonrefundable and nonexchangeable. We would like to give you be a big thank you for supporting Bethel China and their work in caring for and educating abandoned children that are blind or visually impaired.

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7:00 PM - 7:15 PM
Check In
7:15 PM - 8:00 PM
8:00 PM - 8:45 PM
Spotlight Dinner Presentation
8:45 PM - 9:00 PM


  • Joan Kaufman

    Joan Kaufman

    Joan Kaufman is the NY–based Senior Director for Academic Programs at Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University in China. She is a Lecturer in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kaufman is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

    An expert on both China and global health policy, she was the Director of Columbia University’s Global Center for East Asia (Beijing) from 2012-2016 and Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She taught and was based at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government from 2002-2010 where she founded and directed the AIDS Public Policy Project and was a faculty affiliate of Harvard’s Hauser Center for Non-Profit Organizations. From 2003-2012 she was Distinguished Scientist, Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of the Master Program in Health Policy and Management at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She was a Radcliffe fellow in residence at Harvard from 2001-2002 and named as a Soros Reproductive Health and Rights Fellow in 2005.

    She has lived and worked in China for 15 years since 1980 as the first international program officer for the United Nations Population Fund (1980-84), as Program Officer for Gender and Reproductive Health for the Ford Foundation (1996-2001), as the China Team Leader for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (2002-2012), and for Columbia University (2012-2016). She has a Doctorate in Public Health from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, an MA and MS (UC Berkeley) and BA (Trinity College) cum laude in Chinese Studies. She serves on the board for several China and health related nonprofits, has consulted for many foundations and international organizations and has published numerous articles on global health policy, HIV/AIDS, women’s rights, reproductive health, population, emerging infectious diseases, and civil society with a focus on China. Her books include A Billion and Counting: Family Planning Campaigns and Policies in the People’s Republic of China (San Francisco Press, 1983) and AIDS and Social Policies in China (Harvard University Asia Center Publications, 2006).

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