Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Byrnes takes position as executive director of joint institute

A U-M alumna and former state representative is the new executive director of the university’s joint institute with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

  Pamela Byrnes

Former state Rep. Pamela Byrnes, D-Chelsea, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Far Eastern Studies from U-M, has been appointed to the newly created position.

She will oversee the hiring and management of personnel to support the work of faculty and staff serving in the joint institute. She also will be responsible for staff mentoring and training, budget and planning, financial resource management, policy and operations process implementation, and fundraising, among others. Her office will be in Shanghai.

“Pamela Byrnes’ knowledge, experience and leadership will be a valuable asset to the joint institute,” said Jun Ni, dean of the institute and the Shien-Ming (Sam) Wu Collegiate Professor of Manufacturing Science in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Her impressive energy and drive, as well as her ability to work across cultures, will play a pivotal role in taking the institute forward.”


More information

Learn more about the educational opportunities through the joint institute.

Read more about the joint institute's renewable-energy and biomedical research projects.

In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree from U-M, Byrnes has a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Maryland Law School. She says the combination of her U-M degree and her experience working with the Asian population in Washtenaw County has prepared her for the work, which she will begin soon after moving to China next week.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to help bridge the cultural gap between the Chinese and Western cultures,” Byrnes says. “I’ll be setting up a management model that will blend the western management style to China while keeping in mind the Chinese culture that is built around a civil service approach to management. This will be particularly helpful for Chinese students who are going to look for employment in any western culture, and will also expand the experience for American students wishing to learn another culture and language.”

The joint institute places American and Chinese students here and in China. It first was articulated in 2001 and was established by 2005. The first class of students to study in the program began in 2006. Today more than 200 joint institute students attend U-M, most in the College of Engineering.

“The college is committed to fostering global learning, and this collaboration is a major part of our success in this arena," says David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. "As the institute's student body has grown, the staff has expanded from two to two dozen. It is time to create a more professional staff structure and we are thrilled to have Pam Byrnes on board to lead this effort."

In May of last year, U-M and SJTU added research to the collaboration, launching two programs to jointly fund renewable energy and biomedical research projects that involved investigators from both universities.

The goal of the renewable-energy program is to develop new technologies that reduce global carbon emissions and their impact on climate change. The biomedical collaboration will spur technological advances that improve human health. Each university committed $3 million over five years for the first phase of the program.

In the state House, Byrnes held a number of leadership positions, including speaker pro-tempore, chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Higher Education, chair of the Transportation Committee and chair of the Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee.

Her most recent committee appointments include the New Economy and Quality of Life Committee, the New Economy and Quality of Life Subcommittee on Biosciences, the Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, the Regulatory Reform Committee, and the Judiciary Committee.

Before serving in the Michigan House, Byrnes worked for the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court, and was a private-practice attorney serving Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline. She also taught as an adjunct at Eastern Michigan University and Cleary College.