May 23, 2012
IU officials engaging Southeast Asia on 11-day trip
By Mike Leonard
May 23, 2012
A contingent from Indiana University arrived in Southeast Asia this week on an 11-day, four-country trip designed to strengthen historic ties to several universities and develop new ones in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
"Looking at it from the top-down, it's a very important strategic region," said Patrick O'Meara, the university's former vice president for international affairs and now special adviser to the president. Indonesia, for example, is the world's third most populous democracy and home to the world's largest Muslim population.
"Singapore is now becoming world-famous for the kinds of universities it is establishing," O'Meara continued. "It's also a major trading partner. We also have a significant amount of alums there."
And then there's Thailand, where the legendary IU President Herman B Wells enjoys a reputation rivaling the reverence in Bloomington. Wells first met with Thai officials in 1948 and with other IU leaders helped lay the groundwork and direction for the country's leading and globally respected National Institute for Development Administration.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie delivered a speech on institution-building and the challenges facing higher education at NIDA earlier this week. He also presented IU's Thomas Hart Benton Medal to NIDA President Sombat Thamrongthanyawong in recognition of his distinguished academic career and IU's long-standing relationship with NIDA.
Emailing from the trip, David Zaret, IU's current vice president for international affairs, wrote that Wells, former President John Ryan, former education dean Wendell Wright and O'Meara are "local heroes at NIDA." Several IU officials including O'Meara have been awarded honorary doctorates by the Thailand university and Wells was twice knighted by the Thailand government.
IU presented Thailand Crown Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn an honorary doctor of human letters degree at the winter 2010 commencement. "She's very significant. She's a humanitarian leader," O'Meara said. "She's very down to earth and deeply committed to everything from education to health to the social needs of Thailand."
O'Meara suggested that it benefits not only IU but U.S. interests in general when institutions such as IU help emerging nations form the structures and values of their leading colleges and universities.
"Another purpose of the trip is to reinforce connections of our overseas alumni to IU," Zaret wrote. "Last night, we had a reception that attracted over 100 Thai alumni in Bangkok who were delighted to see the IU president. The age range was enormous, many young, recent graduates and many who had studied at IU in the 1960s and 1970s."
The four-country trip is expected to increase both programs and student exchanges between IU and the Southeast Asia institutions.
"Indiana University has a long and storied history of institution-building and educational development in Southeast Asia, where many of our activities stem from the global vision of IU's legendary 11th president Herman Wells," McRobbie said in a prepared statement.
"Our large and growing numbers of alumni from Southeast Asia, and the strong partnerships we have forged with its pre-eminent universities, reflect the impact the region will have on future economic growth here in Indiana, nationally and internationally," McRobbie said.