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Trip to Southeast Asia focuses on recruitment, collaborations

August 4, 2006
By Elizabeth Boyle

 

Ask a passerby on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to name the top five universities in the United States, and the answer likely will include Ohio University, predicts Associate Provost for International Affairs Josep Rota.

The university has forged that remarkable reputation through a 40-year relationship with Malaysia, which boasts some 2,400 Ohio University alumni, the largest number in any country other than the United States, Rota says.

Map of Southeast AsiaIn an effort to build on that tradition, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis and other leaders will travel to Malaysia this month. They also will visit Thailand to meet with officials at Bangkok University, and some members of the group will go on to Cambodia, where they will meet with representatives of the University of Cambodia and the Ministry of Education. They will discuss opportunities for research and teaching collaboration as well as faculty and student exchanges.

“Ohio University is a nationally prominent university with a strong global presence, especially in Southeast Asia,” McDavis says. “With this trip, we seek to strengthen existing relationships and develop new agreements that will benefit the learning experiences of our students in an increasingly global environment.”

The Ohio University group will focus on student recruitment; discuss the development of academic programs at institutions in the region; seek support for the Tun Abdul Razak Chair, a residency at Ohio University filled by a senior Malaysian scholar; and attend a Global Homecoming in Asia, a networking and educational opportunity for alumni.

Expanding academic opportunities

High on the list of the trip’s goals is an effort to spark international students’ interest in studying in Athens. This contributes to campus diversity and expands learning opportunities for traditional students, Rota says.

“It is likely that our students will work for foreign corporations or companies and governments that depend on international trade to survive,” Rota says. “In this globalized world, we must provide opportunities for our students to understand the complexities in this world.”

Rota also hopes the trip and resulting partnerships will increase the university’s visibility and attract students to programs that might be established in Southeast Asia. Ohio University has long engaged in faculty and student exchange programs with Malaysian universities, with more than 100 faculty members having spent time teaching or researching there. The university also has developed programs in Malaysia and has established itself as a top resource for Malaysian studies in the United States.

In 1975, the College of Business established a bachelor of business administration degree program for students at Malaysian MARA Institute of Technology. MBA and executive MBA programs followed in the 1980s. The programs flourished, and by the late 1990s, the college had produced some 1,600 graduates in Malaysia.

When the East Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, Ohio University and MARA Institute officials agreed to discontinue the programs. However, as low inflation and healthy foreign exchange reserves support a stronger economy in Malaysia and the region, the university wants to explore new offerings with the MARA Institute and other universities in Southeast Asia.

Building on prominent resources

The upcoming trip is a followup to a March 2005 visit by McDavis to Malaysia, where he met with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. An important aspect of this trip, which will include meetings with Malaysia’s deputy prime minister and minister of higher education, is to seek support for Ohio University’s Razak Chair. Since 1980, the position has brought 12 senior Malaysian scholars to Athens to teach, conduct research and build bridges between the two cultures. The Razak Chair, named for the second prime minister of Malaysia, is a two-year appointment.

“During this trip, we will meet with large U.S. companies with a presence in Malaysia, companies that contributed funds when the chair was established,” says Vice President for University Advancement Howard Lipman. “We also will meet with alumni to seek support for Ohio University and encourage their involvement in student recruitment.”

Finding continued support for the chair is important. Its prominence led to Ohio University being named a national depository for Malaysian books, government documents and media in 1987. The National Library of Malaysia collects and ships resources to Alden Library each year. The library’s Southeast Asia Collection and Malaysian Resource Center house some 385,800 volumes, serial titles and microform titles, and attract researchers, students and faculty from around the world.

Patricia Martinez, an associate professor at the Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, used the library during a quarter at Ohio University in 2003 as a Fulbright Fellow and Luce Research Scholar.

“Malaysia is a small nation, and collections of Malaysiana are usually very limited if they exist at all in most libraries in the United States,” she says. “However, because of the Tun Razak Chair endowment and Ohio University’s long relationship with institutions in Malaysia, the resources in Alden Library on Malaysia and Southeast Asia were remarkable and quite comprehensive.”

The university’s Southeast Asian Studies program has been designated as a National Resource Center by the U.S. Department of Education. With the designation, it received $1.9 million between 2000 and 2003, and it will receive $874,000 between 2006 and 2010. Those funds mean new faculty positions, courses and library resources, and support for collaborative conferences with other U.S. universities.

“For any student interested in Malaysia, Ohio University becomes one of the most attractive places to pursue graduate studies,” Rota says. “Our students find resources here that they won’t find anywhere else. Students do research and work with professors who are among the best in the field in this country.”

Reuniting with alumni
 
During the trip, McDavis will attend the Global Homecoming in Asia, an opportunity for as many as 150 alumni to make connections and re-establish ties with the university.  In addition to alumni living in Malaysia, attendees will come from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Europe and North America.

They will attend panels led by high-profile government officials and company executives, such as one on higher education in Malaysia led by the minister of higher education and another about the country’s trade led by the CEO of Procter & Gamble Malaysia. The event also will include an effort to involve alumni in student recruiting.

In addition to McDavis, Rota and Lipman, other members of the Ohio University group include Deborah McDavis, wife of President McDavis; Alan Geiger, assistant to the president and secretary to the board of trustees, and his wife, Sandy; Greg Emery, director of the university’s Global Leadership Center; Mary Strother, assistant dean and senior director of development; Ralph Amos, assistant vice president for alumni relations; Greg Scharer, director of alumni campus relations and advocacy; Vicki Seefeldt West, coordinator of international outreach for graduate studies; and Karla Schneider, assistant director of Southeast Asian Studies.

Country quick facts

Malaysia

  • Population: 24.3 million
  • Size: Slightly larger than New Mexico
  • Official language: Malay, known as Bahasa Melayu 
  • Religion: 52 percent Muslim, 17 percent Buddhist, 12 percent Taoist, 8 percent Christian, 8 percent Hindu
  • Government: Constitutional monarchy governs 13 states headed by a paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of non-elected upper house and an elected lower house
  • Ethnic groups: 50.4 percent Malay, 23.7 percent Chinese, 11 percent indigenous

Thailand

  • Population: 64.6 million
  • Size: About twice the size of Wyoming
  • Official language: Thai
  • Religion: 95 percent Buddhist, 4 percent Muslim
  • Government: Constitutional monarchy
  • Ethnic groups: 75 percent Thai, 14 percent Chinese

Cambodia

  • Population: 13.8 million
  • Size: Similar to Oklahoma
  • Official language: Khmer
  • Religion: Predominantly Theravada Buddhist 
  • Government: Multiparty democracy under constitutional monarchy
  • Ethnic groups: 90 percent Khmer, 5 percent Vietnamese


Source: CIA World Factbook, Lonelyplanet.com


Elizabeth Boyle is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.

Published: Jan 3, 2007 9:35:38 AM
 
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