APIDAA Heritage Month: Meet Robert Gao

Photo of Robert Gao

May is Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American Heritage Month. Throughout the month, The Daily will highlight members of the university community who are of Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American heritage to celebrate their accomplishments as members of the campus community and shed light on their experiences at CWRU.

Robert Gao has a vast international educational background. After growing up in Beijing, China, and completing his undergraduate degree there, he studied in Germany for graduate school and then moved to the United States, where he’s worked at various universities for more than 30 years. 

Now serving as the Cady Staley Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Gao believes his academic background had an immense impact on him—and he wants those around him to benefit from internationalization, too.

“Internationalization broadens people’s view about the world we live in and helps us learn from different cultures, ultimately making everyone a well-cultured, wise, and better person,” Gao explained.   

Gao was recently recognized for his work in this area during the Center for International Affairs’ Global Citizen Awards Ceremony, being named this year’s International Leader. The award honors a faculty or staff member who embodies what it means to be a global citizen at the university, and creates opportunities for students to broaden their worldviews—something Gao is uniquely familiar with. 

Since arriving at CWRU in 2015, Gao has been instrumental in supporting the university’s internationalization efforts. As one example, he played an important role in helping the university create and establish CWRU at XJTU, a partnership between CWRU and Xi’an Jiaotong University, which has since provided more than 200 CWRU students with the opportunity to live in a Chinese community and take CWRU classes from afar. 

A member of the International Affairs Advisory Council, Gao said he was “deeply honored” and humbled to receive the award. 

“I couldn’t have done what I did without the support of colleagues at the Center of International Affairs,” he noted. “Their dedication to promoting internationalization on campus, their demonstrated professionalism for the job they do—all these have left a deep impression on me and made me respect them highly.”

In all he does, Gao said he integrates courtesy, kindness, modesty and diligence—key elements of the culture in which he grew up.

“My experience is that these also represent the fundamental characteristics of other cultures in the world,” Gao said. “As a result, incorporating these into my work and life come up naturally.”

As Case Western Reserve University and people around the country recognize Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American Heritage Month this month, Gao said it’s important to reflect on the many contributions that the APIDAA community has made to our society, from arts and architecture to science and engineering—and everything in between. 

Learn more about APIDAA Heritage Month.