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University seeks stronger ties with Malaysian government
McDavis, others travel to Kuala Lumpur

Aug. 2, 2007
By Mariel Betancourt

Designated a national leader in its field by the U.S. Department of Education, the Ohio University Center for Southeast Asian Studies is poised for growth in coming years. 

Plans for further development of the center -- which houses one of the largest library collections on Southeast Asia in North America -- include strengthening existing ties with partners such as the Malaysian government and expanding the role served by the university's Tun Abdal Razak Distinguished Chair.

To explore these possibilities for continued collaboration with Malaysian officials, a group that includes Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis will travel to Kuala Lumpur next week. 

During the Aug. 5-11 visit, McDavis will meet with top-level government officials, including Minister of Higher Education Mustapa Mohammed and U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia Christopher LaFleur, as well as Malaysian business leaders. It is McDavis' third trip to Malaysia.

The delegation also will attend the Tun Abdal Razak Lecture, an event sponsored jointly with the University of Malaya. McDavis will introduce this year's speaker, Carl Ernst, director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations and a William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is one of the leading scholars in the United States on the subject of Islam.

"Ohio University is proud of its 41-year relationship with Malaysia," McDavis said. "We are working to strengthen and deepen our relationship with the Malaysian government and Malaysian people. It is an honor to attend the Razak lecture and introduce the speaker."

The government of Malaysia endowed the Tun Abdal Razak Chair at Ohio University in 1980. The chair is offered every two years to a senior Malaysian scholar who conducts undergraduate and graduate seminars and organizes a conference in the second year of the residency. The current chair is Professor Dato' Mohamad Abu Bakar of the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya.

In addition to teaching in Athens, the holder of the Razak Chair travels to other universities for lectures, conferences and symposia, allowing him or her to function as an cultural ambassador of Malaysia in the United States, said Associate Provost for International Affairs Josep Rota. 

"The Razak Chair travels and represents not just Southeast Asia, but also Ohio University," Rota said. "What we now would like to do is to have the Razak Chair continue in this role but also serve nationally."

For example, the chair could serve as a valuable resource to the Malaysian embassy in the United States, the State Department and international business groups, Rota said. The chair also could serve as an expert source for American journalists covering events and issues in Southeast Asia. 

The upcoming visit will provide Rota, who also is traveling to Malaysia, and McDavis the opportunity to discuss such an expanded role with Malaysian contacts and pursue the additional funds needed to reach this goal. They'll also discuss the possibility of hosting more lectures or conferences as part of the Razak Chair partnerships.

Also during the visit, McDavis will consult with the Razak Council, composed of all previous Razak Chairs, and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, the son of Tun Abdal Razak, the second prime minister of Malaysia. 

He will meet with a group of Ohio University alumni as well. The university has more than 2,400 alumni in Malaysia -- more than any country outside the United States -- as a result of a pioneering program established in the 1970s that offered business degrees at Malaysia's Institut Teknologi MARA.

Vice President for University Advancement Howard Lipman, Assistant Director for the Center for International Studies Karla Schneider and Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies Glenn Ammarell also will travel to Malaysia. The Ohio University Foundation will finance the trip.

Founded in 1967, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies offers a bachelor's and master's degree in Southeast Asian studies with courses in 19 disciplines. It supports more than 60 students a year working across the university and is one of only seven National Resource Centers in Southeast Asian Studies in the United States.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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