UMD: A Globally Connected University

Our Staff

Nathaniel Ahrens

Nathaniel Ahrens is Director of China Affairs for the University of Maryland. He is responsible for overall coordination of China relationships on campus, running the Office of China Affairs’ training programs (formerly known as the Maryland China Initiative), and serving as a resource for faculty and staff at UMD.

Ahrens is also executive director and founder of the American Mandarin Society, a non-partisan, non-profit organization composed of Americans who have studied, researched, and lived in Greater China - all whom have Mandarin capabilities and potential to become the future stewards of the bilateral relationship. 

Most recently Ahrens was deputy director and fellow with the Hills Program on Governance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he was in charge of development and also active in research. He was formerly an adjunct fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, where he focused on issues relating to China's trade, industrial policy, and innovation. In 2010 he was a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focused on climate, energy, and sustainable development issues in China, as well as Chinese national innovation policy and government procurement. Ahrens also ran Golden Road Ventures Ltd., a business development and strategic advisory firm that provided expertise and support for projects in China. Previously, he worked for 10 years in China. He was senior product manager and director of international sales for Intrinsic Technology, a Shanghai-based telecommunications software provider and also founded Shanghai Pack Ltd., a luxury-brand packaging company based in Shanghai and Paris. Ahrens also spent a year managing cruise ships on the Yangtze River.

Ahrens is also a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Institute of Current World Affairs, and serves as a member of the Maryland-Anhui Sister State Committee. He holds a master’s degree in public policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with a concentration in international economics, an A.B. from Vassar College, and studied at Beijing Language and Culture University.


Jeannette Dai-Wang, Esq. 
Associate Director

Jeannette manages OCA's executive programs and oversees administrative and legal affairs. She plays a key role in OCA’s strategic planning and business development.  She serves as a consultant to other university units at UMD and often gives consultations to other Maryland state and local government officials.  On behalf of OCA, she also serves as the liaison with Chinese Government agencies and universities. Prior to joining UMD in 2006, Jeannette has worked as an attorney for financial institutions and law firms.  Jeannette obtained her bachelor degree from State University of New York double major in Political Science and International Relations with a minor in Modern Language-Japanese. She received her law degree from Southern Illinois University.   ​


Lei Bao
Program Manager

Lei manages OCA's higher education administration and teaching programs, and customized education programs for officials from China's central, provincial and municipal government. She participates in program planning and program content development, and is in charge of program implementation. She develops and maintains a network of U.S. government agencies, higher education institutions, private enterprises, professional associations, university faculty and industry experts to carry out high quality programs. She also manages day-to-day communication with program sponsors in China, and oversees all vendor contracts in the U.S. Lei obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree from Zhejiang University, P. R. China, and Master of Laws degree from the George Washington University. She is a member of the American Translators Association and is a member of the New York State Bar.​


Ken Hunter
Senior Advisor

Ken is a retired senior executive of the U.S. Government Accountability Office who is serving as a senior fellow of OCA to help design and deliver leadership develop programs for groups of Chinese officials. As an expert on U.S. institutions with a wide range of practical experience and an extensive network of people in government at all levels, Ken helps the Chinese officials gain a deeper understanding of U.S. public policy and management. His work with Chinese executive practitioners who are engaged in implementing change in China benefits his own research on long-term structural changes in U.S. and international institutions. Ken also serves as the vice-chairman on the Board of Directors of the World Future Society, a nonprofit association that publishes and convenes meetings on how social, economic, ecological, and technological developments will likely shape the future.


Michelle Winglee 
Program Management Specialist 

Michelle coordinates cross-campus China program initiatives and assists with University of Maryland Office of China Affairs training programs for Chinese government officials, executives, NGO leaders, and scholars. Prior to joining the University of Maryland, Michelle spent a year in Taipei and Beijing at intensive Mandarin programs while freelancing for the Diplomat Magazine, chinadialouge, and Foreign Policy, and doing research work for the Economist Intelligence Unit. Michelle previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace focused on China’s economy. She graduated from Cornell University with a major in economics and minor international relations. ​ 


Zhongli Xu​ 
Program Assistant

Zhongli assists with higher education program coordination, curriculum instruction design, and program logistics at the University of Maryland Office of China Affairs. Prior to joining OCA, Zhongli worked with public and private sectors on global education engagement, helping to pair-up more than 20 sister schools between the U.S. and China. She has more than four years of experience as a K-12 public school teacher. While attending Changsha University of Science and Technology, Zhongli was also a leader in student philanthropy, successfully raising 1 million RMB from SOHO China to help students in Sichuan recover from earthquake after-shocks. Zhongli earned a master degree in education from the University of Maryland in 2013.​


Aron Xiang 
Interpreter Intern

Aron is a master candidate in interpreting studies at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies School of Interpreting and Translation Studies. Pengtao has extensive experience in interpreting, including working as a consecutive interpreter for ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) in 2016 and the China-ASEAN Expo in 2015. At the School of Interpreting and Translation Studies, Pengtao leads the English-language Debate Society. He won third place at the provincial level in the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press English Speech Contest and third place at the central-China level in FLTRP English Debate Contest.     


Xinhui Zhang
Interpreter Intern

​Xinhui (Susan) is a master candidate at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies School of Interpreting and Translation Studies International Conference Interpreting Program. As an undergraduate, Xinhui passed Level 2 of the China Accreditation Test for Translators and Interpreters. Xinhui has worked for people across a wide range of backgrounds like Canton Fair Forum, Educational Leadership Learning Exchange Program, World Bank, Sino-German SME Cooperation Conference, CICA etc. in both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. She also has participated in interpreter internship at the United Nations. Susan plays the piano and loves performing arts.