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Relationships are key focus during president's trip to Asia

May 18, 2005
By Cassie Lynott

President Roderick McDavis recently returned from a trip to Malaysia, China and Japan where he met with alumni and government officials to discuss ways to strengthen new and existing relationships. The trip focused on the establishment and reinforcement of academic programs in Asia and ways to forge new partnerships with these countries.

"Ohio University has such a high regard for the programs and friendships it has made in Eastern and Southeastern Asia," McDavis says. "The trip was a great opportunity to meet the people, universities and agencies that so strongly support our university."

McDavis was accompanied by First Lady Deborah McDavis, Assistant to the President and Secretary of the Board of Trustees Alan Geiger and his wife, Sandy, Secretary of the Board of Trustees C. Daniel DeLawder and his wife, Diane, and Director of the Center for International Studies Josep Rota.

Part of the reason for the trip was to promote the professorship to an even higher international prominence. The Tun Abdul Razak Chair was the first chair position established by any university in the United States with the help of a foreign governor. The program offers a great deal of diversity of people and disciplines, according to Rota.

With the support of the Malaysia Government, Ohio University created the Tun Abdul Razak Chair in 1979. The position is named after the former prime minister of Malaysia, who served from 1970 to 1976. Considered one of the founding fathers of the modern country, Razak promoted economic control of the Malay language, Islam, while easing racial tensions.

Since 1983, the university has hosted 11 Razak Chair Professors from Malaysia. Currently, Abdul Kadir Din, a professor of Tourism from the Universiti Utara Malaysia, holds the position. The university regards Malaysia as one of its most important educational partnerships in the world, according to Rota.

Many Ohio University alumni live in Asia, working in the media, academic circles, government occupations and private sectors. There are also several hundred Ohio University students studying in Hong Kong.

During the trip, Ohio University officials reviewed its 40-year relationship with Malaysia and the country's educational institutions. While in Asia, McDavis met with the prime minister of Malaysia, deputy prime minister and minister of defense and the minister of higher education of Malaysia.

"We did something that probably no other university in the world could do," Rota says.

During the meetings, officials discussed how to strengthen the university's presence, offered help in strengthening programs and received a substantial gift from the government of Malaysia. McDavis, in turn, made a commitment to the Malaysian government to match its gift by raising an equivalent amount of money from Ohio-based companies working with Malaysian companies. The American Chamber of Commerce, the Malaysian government and the American Embassy are helping complete the goal.

Ohio University is unique in the education field because many experts in The U.S. government consider Ohio University to be one of the top institutions for the study of Southeast Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Rota.

Rota considers Alden Library's Southeast Asian Collection in Alden library to be the best collection of Southeast Asian documents in the country. The collection boasts over 110,000 documents and artifacts from all nations of Southeast Asia, and especially Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia.

During meetings in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia, representatives discussed ways to strengthen Ohio University's position internationally, including a stronger recruitment of international students.

Rota says he considers it important for all American universities to recruit the best and brightest from Asia.

Right now, the College of Health and Human Services at Ohio University is in an advanced stage of negotiation to offer a sports administration masters program in Beijing, China. The new program coincides with the 2008 Olympic Games, which will take place in Beijing.

"To have Ohio University involved in Olympic Games will be an extremely important and wonderful opportunity," Rota says.

During the trip, McDavis attended receptions for Ohio University alums in Hong Kong and in Malaysia.

For 32 years, Ohio University and Chubu University, in central Japan, have traded professors as part of the schools' shared visiting professors program. This spring, Mia Consalvo from the School of Telecommunications traveled to Japan. Daniel Phillips from the Department of Physics and Astronomy will most likely be the next visiting professor in spring 2006. According to Rota. Rika Mizuno, a professor of psychology from Chubu University came to Athens for the fall 2004 quarter and next winter, Chubu University will send physics professor Sasuke Miyazima.

This spring quarter, 39 Chubu University students arrived in Athens to study through the first summer session.

Geiger has been instrumental in the advancement of the universities' relationship.

"Our relationship with Chubu University has been such a gift," Geiger says.

In celebration of Ohio University's bicentennial, Chubu University donated 25 cherry trees to the university. These trees, when paired with the 175 that Chubu had given during the 175th anniversary make 200 cherry trees, which are planted along the Hocking River. Along with the trees, Chubu University also gave a one million dollar gift toward the renovation of the Yamada International House.

Cassie Lynott is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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