$1 Million Gift Creates New Fellowship and Study Opportunities on Contemporary China

Elliott School alumnus David Gitter endows fund promoting advanced proficiency in the Chinese language through immersive instruction abroad.

August 24, 2023

David Gitter

Alumnus David Gitter has endowed a fund promoting advanced proficiency in the Chinese language through immersive instruction abroad. (William Atkins/GW Today)

While studying for his master’s degree in Asian studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University, David Gitter, M.A. ‘15, pored voraciously through GW’s Chinese language resources, including the world-class special collection of the China Documentation Center at Gelman Library.

The many hours he spent with these Chinese-language books and journals helped shape his conviction that “advanced proficiency in the Chinese language, both written and spoken, is essential to a true understanding of Chinese culture, history and politics.”

Now an expert on contemporary China who has lived, worked and studied in Beijing, Gitter has firsthand knowledge of the major role that the Chinese language plays in helping professional China watchers make sound assessments and offer informed advice. While Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over 1 billion people, few Westerners are fluent.

Thanks to Gitter’s generosity, each year an Elliott School graduate student, selected by competitive application as a David Gitter Fellow, will be able to experience immersive Chinese language instruction in China, funded by the David A. Gitter Endowment for Contemporary China Studies. The endowment also enables the school to expand course offerings focused on contemporary (post-1949) China.

 “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a major world power and of extreme importance to the United States,” Gitter said. “I want this endowment to help American scholars and practitioners acquire a deep and granular understanding of the PRC.”

Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president for development and alumni relations, noted that the David Gitter Fellowships will allow students to “truly walk in the shoes of the people in China.

“This gift will give GW students focused on China a big leg up in their studies and careers by adding firepower to critical on-the-ground language study,” Arbide added. “We are so grateful for successful alumni like David who open doors for others as they advance their impact on their field.”

Gitter made the $1 million gift through the think tank he founded after graduation to advance U.S. understanding of China’s domestic politics, foreign affairs and security policy, the Center for Advanced China Research (CACR). CACR quickly became an important resource for China specialists and media outlets. The David A. Gitter Endowment for Contemporary China Studies will serve as an extension of the center’s work at GW and secure its legacy.

Use of resources provided by the new endowment will be overseen by GW’s prominent Sigur Center for Asian Studies, situated at the Elliott School. A federally recognized East Asia National Resource Center, the Sigur Center draws on the expertise of more than 60 faculty across GW.

“This exceptional gift recognizes the field-defining work that the Sigur Center for Asian Studies is doing, and it will strengthen our offerings for students focused on China,” said Alyssa Ayres, dean of the Elliott School. “Given China’s role on the world stage, there is a critical need for a new cadre of experts who understand contemporary China—and have advanced Chinese language proficiency.

“We also look forward to bringing experts to campus to teach new courses that will broaden understanding of the geopolitical, geoeconomic and cultural aspects of modern-day China,” said Ayres.

For more information on the application process for these fellowships, please contact Amy Aldrich at [email protected].

Others interested in opening the doors of opportunity for talented students interested in advancing their proficiency in the Chinese language and furthering knowledge of contemporary China studies are encouraged to contribute to the David A. Gitter Endowment for Contemporary China Studies.