The impact of IU’s international family

Saturday, the final day of this whirlwind weeklong trip to East Asia, marked the start here in China of the Mid-Autumn Festival, a harvest festival – sometimes also called the Moon Festival or Harvest Moon Festival – held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. The festival, which dates back to the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BCE), is when friends and family come together and give thanks for the harvest. (It’s believed that the moon is the brightest and fullest on this day, signaling a time for family reunion.) Those back home in Indiana might think of it as Thanksgiving.

IU’s Chinese alumni brought a slice of Bloomington to Beijing for the IU is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion.

What better time, then, to bring together IU’s international family in Beijing for the IU is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion, where members of the IU delegation, led by President Michael A. McRobbie and Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum, could express thanks to some of IU’s most distinguished international graduates and friends for their continued loyalty and support.

Today was also a day when delegation members began reflecting on our productive time here in East Asia, which has truly underscored the extraordinary impact IU has had in this dynamic part of the world and the value of the university’s continuing effort to strengthen its engagement in strategically important countries like Korea and China. This outreach has led to valuable overseas study opportunities for IU students, as well as research collaborations and other exchanges between IU faculty and some of the world’s leading international scholars.

It has also ensured a continuing welcoming environment at IU for the best and brightest students from around the world, who diversify and enrich our campuses and the Hoosier communities they serve, bring valuable cultural perspectives to our classrooms and contribute to an educational environment that prepares all of our students – whether they are from Beijing, Bloomington, Korea or Kokomo – for success in the increasingly interconnected and competitive world they will enter when they graduate.

IU Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum meets with colleagues from one of IU’s newest global partner institutions, the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences.

Beginning last Monday in Seoul, it was a week that saw IU expand its global partnerships and plant the seeds for future collaborative activities as the university rapidly approaches the celebration of its Bicentennial, which will commence with the start of the 2019-20 academic year. Highlights of this week’s accomplishments included:

  • Connecting with senior leaders and faculty from Yonsei University, one of IU’s longest-running global partnerships, including Yonsei President Young-Hak Kim and Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations from 2007 to 2016.
  • Expressing appreciation to and pursuing new funding opportunities with representatives of the Academy of Korean Studies, which has helped establish the new Institute for Korean Studies at the School of Global and International Studies and firmly position IU as the Midwestern U.S. leader in the study of contemporary Korea.
  • Renewing and reinvigorating our relationship with Nankai University and honoring the late Binglin He and Ruyu Chen, two of the most distinguished Chinese alumni in IU’s history for their pioneering work in chemistry.
  • Establishing a new global partner in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s premier academic organization and comprehensive research center in the fields of philosophy and the social sciences.
  • Celebrating the beginning of a multiyear partnership between the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU and the Tsinghua University Art Museum, the first collaboration of its kind between university art museums in the U.S. and China.
  • Signing a new agreement of friendship and cooperation with Renmin University, one of China’s premier universities for teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Engaging in productive talks with senior leaders across business, culture, finance and government and acquiring valuable advice and insights as IU seeks to become an even greater global university.
  • Reconnecting with many alumni and friends in both Korea and China, who contribute to two of the most active international chapters of the IU Alumni Association and continue to serve as IU’s most enthusiastic global ambassadors.
  • Building excitement for the IU Bicentennial Global Alumni Conference and Reunion, a celebration of IU’s graduates across the U.S. and around the world, already being planned for the first week of June 2020 in Indianapolis and Bloomington.

A conference and celebration for ALL ages

If today’s extraordinarily successful alumni conference and reunion in Beijing is any indication, the Bicentennial celebration will be pretty special.

Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to design a better warm-up act for 2020. Despite the fact it was the start of the Mid-Autumn Festival as well as a Saturday, more than 300 alumni from across the Asia-Pacific region, representing a remarkable 14 countries, joined President McRobbie, Vice President Buxbaum, senior administrators, IU deans, faculty, staff and other distinguished guests at today’s all-day event. Also in attendance were the IU Alumni Association chapter leaders from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

IU President Michael McRobbie provides alumni with an update on recent progress at IU, including advancements in international engagement.

Today’s event, IU’s fourth international alumni conference and first since 2015, provided a brief glimpse into the breadth and depth of what has made IU one of the world’s best and most internationally focused universities in the world.

The conference began with update from President McRobbie on IU’s record-breaking achievements last year and other recent progress the university has made in strengthening its academic programs, teaching and research infrastructure, and international engagement. Next were a number of interesting and informative alumni panel discussions – moderated by leaders at IU’s School of Global and International Studies (Lee Feinstein, founding dean and former U.S. ambassador to Poland), School of Public and Environmental Affairs (Executive Associate Dean Michael McGuire) and Maurer School of Law (Dean Austen Parrish) – addressing the challenges facing the global economy, the environment and public health, and the changing global legal profession.

In his keynote address, IU alumnus Michael Uslan (BA ’73) told the inspiring story of how he capitalized on his IU education to build a career spanning the first-ever college course on comic books to the production of major motion pictures, including the modern-day “Batman” films. An instructor in IU’s new Media School, Uslan also offered some keen insights on how today’s students can confidently master a rapidly changing world of global business, guided by the spirit of entrepreneurship, innovation and persistence.

IU is everywhere

It was a pleasure to be part of the engaging alumni conference, as well as the evening’s celebratory gala and awards dinner, and in the company of so many amazingly successful and proud graduates, who represented several generations.

At the gala and dinner, guests were treated to a wonderful traditional Chinese music performance, which was followed by a series of inspiring welcoming remarks from Robert Johnson, chairman of the IU Alumni Association Board of Managers, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Global and International Studies and a ubiquitous presence at all of Saturday’s activities, Vice President Buxbaum and President McRobbie.

(The most memorable moment of the evening and a highlight of our entire trip? McRobbie and several of his IU colleagues honoring all of the alumni in attendance – by the decade in which they graduated and starting with those who earned their degrees in the 1960s – by presenting them with commemorative stoles.)

Across all ages, the alumni at Saturday’s events talked unabashedly about their continued love for IU, the sense of belonging they felt at IU’s campuses, the personal and professional value of study abroad and their deep gratitude toward the university for providing them with the quintessential university experience.

IU President Michael McRobbie recognizes the leaders of the IU Alumni Association Beijing Chapter for organizing the IU is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion, which drew more than 300 IU international alumni and friends to Beijing.

They also expressed excitement over new international developments at IU that will benefit future students, such as IU’s new Global Gateway offices, which are making possible new exchange and research opportunities (read about one such IU project in Beijing that’s addressing major health risks), and the construction of a new International Center. The highly anticipated new facility will provide services and facilities for both the orientation of overseas students coming to IU and students intending to study abroad, allowing them to more closely interact with and learn from each other.

As President McRobbie has said on many occasions, IU alumni – no matter where they may live – are among the most dedicated and loyal to their alma mater of any other U.S. college or university, and their successes are truly the university’s successes.

Here in China, across the Asia-Pacific region and all across the globe, through their work and service to others, they make major contributions to the prosperity and progress of their communities and their nations. And through their energy, enthusiasm and deep loyalty to the university, they enhance IU’s – and Indiana’s – reputation worldwide.

Indeed, if this week’s events demonstrated anything, it is that IU truly is everywhere, that the Hoosier spirit knows no bounds and that the university’s international presence will continue to expand as it continues to increase its engagement here in East Asia and beyond.

Goodbye to all of our wonderful friends in China and Korea, and thanks to everyone, wherever you are, for reading!

A promising global partnership

Members of IU’s delegation awoke Friday morning to the finest weather we’ve had all week here in Beijing, including warm sunshine, clear skies and a delicate cool breeze that made it feel like we were back home in Indiana enjoying the first day of fall.

Indeed, it would’ve been easy to take an end-of-week breather and indulge in Mother Nature’s pleasant offerings, especially following a busy Thursday that saw the signing of a new university agreement at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, meetings with senior leaders in China’s education and finance sectors, and the celebration of a major art exhibition marking the start of a landmark cultural collaboration between IU and Tsinghua University.

Gymnasium at Renmin University in Beijing.

But there was a bit more business to get to – including building the beginnings of one more promising global partnership – before the start of tomorrow’s highly anticipated IU is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion, which is expected to draw hundreds of IU graduates from China and around the region to Beijing for a day of scholarly presentations, speeches from distinguished guests and special celebratory activities.

A burgeoning global partnership in the social sciences and humanities

On Friday morning, IU President Michael A. McRobbie and Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum led their colleagues to Renmin University, or RUC, one of East Asia’s most elite research universities, located in the northwestern part of Beijing. Established more than 80 years ago, in 1937, RUC has earned the reputation as one of China’s premier universities for teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences, and it now has around 24,000 students on its main campus, which is just a short drive away from several other top schools in China – and longtime IU partners – Peking University and Tsinghua University.

Renmin University, or RUC, recently celebrated its 80th anniversary.

Since we arrived a few minutes early (not only did the Beijing weather cooperate today, but so did the traffic), we had the opportunity to take a quick tour of RUC’s pretty, tree-lined campus grounds, including its impressive gymnasium, where about a dozen students were engaged in heated games of badminton, and several outdoor ping-pong and basketball courts, also brimming with students.

A quick aside: Watching several other RUC students shoot hoops underscored just how popular basketball, which now more than ever is a truly global sport, has become in China. It also served as a welcome reminder that IU was the first institution in the U.S. to broadcast – beginning in 2015 and led by a team of student announcers – its basketball games in Mandarin. This has ensured that IU’s more than 3,100 Chinese students and over 7,000 China-affiliated alumni around the world stay connected with the university and one of America’s most storied collegiate sports programs.

When it was finally time to meet, President McRobbie and RUC President Wei Liu took turns sharing the strengths of their respective universities, which, not surprisingly, seem uniquely well matched, particularly given IU’s decades-long tradition of excellence in the arts and humanities.

During the meeting, McRobbie highlighted, as he has done so many times this week, the large number of IU students (around 500) studying Mandarin Chinese at all levels and instruction. He also discussed the substantial increase in the number of IU students choosing to do a period of overseas study in China. Continuing an upward trend, China currently ranks in the top 10 countries where IU students choose to study abroad, and it’s now the No. 1 study-abroad destination for students from the IUPUI campus.

For his part, President Liu talked proudly of RUC’s 14 “world-class” disciplines and the university’s No. 1 ranking across nine fields, including law, political science, journalism, sociology, theoretical economics, applied economics, business administration, public administration and statistics.

IU President Michael McRobbie, right, and Wei Liu, president of Renmin University, sign a new partnership agreement between their respective institutions.

Both leaders described a shared goal of increasing the number of student exchanges between IU and China, building on past collaborations (IU’s McKinney School of Law has had a successful summer program at Renmin for many years and recently increased the scope of the relationship to include faculty exchanges) and engaging in other opportunities to work together across areas such as law, public administration, public policy and sociology.

Interestingly, Renmin is also home to a sizeable contingent of scholars interested in the work of the late IU Distinguished Professor and first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, Elinor “Lin” Ostrom, several of whom we met the last time we were in Beijing at a special symposium on Ostrom’s remarkable career at IU’s China Gateway office.

Michael McGuire, executive dean of IU’s top-rated School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and John Yasuda, assistant professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at IU’s School of Global and International Studies, who also joined members of the IU delegation at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, planned to follow up with their RUC colleagues and these and other possible collaborative activities.

Before parting ways, McRobbie and Liu signed the first-ever agreement of friendship and cooperation between their respective institutions. The signing signaled a major step forward for the burgeoning IU-Remnin relationship, while also once again reflecting IU’s major presence – and continued efforts to strengthen its engagement – here in East Asia.

Meeting with Yi Gang

After the agreement-signing at RUC, McRobbie, Buxbaum, former U.S. ambassador and founding dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies Lee Feinstein and several other members of the IU delegation were invited to a working lunch with former IU faculty member Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China.

The People’s Bank of China is China’s central bank, responsible for carrying out the monetary policy and regulation of financial institutions for the world’s second-largest economy. Yi, who served as assistant professor and associate professor of economics at IUPUI from 1986 to 1994 and received an honorary doctorate from IU in 2012, was named governor of the People’s Bank earlier this year. The meeting was held at the People’s Bank headquarters, located in downtown Beijing, where Yi, McRobbie and their respective colleagues discussed a number of issues concerning global economic and cultural affairs and the continued internationalization of higher education in the U.S. and China.

Members of the IU delegation with Yi Gang, center. A former IU faculty member, Gang is the governor of the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank.

Introducing “IU is Global”

The final activity of Friday was an evening reception, which brought together the leaders of the Beijing Chapter of the IU Alumni Association, distinguished IU international alumni and the IU delegation, to kick off the IU is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion.

The all-day event, which is being sponsored by the IU Office of the Bicentennial, officially starts Saturday morning and will feature remarks from McRobbie and Buxbaum, a keynote address delivered by IU alumnus and producer of the “Batman” movies Michael Uslan and multidisciplinary panels on a number of important issues affecting East Asia and other parts of the world moderated by IU faculty and staff. It will be the fourth major international conference and reunion for IU’s Asian alumni. The first was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 1999.

Vince Wen, chair of the IU is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion Committee.

It promises to be a special event, one that will allow the university to gain further insights from some of its most distinguished and successful graduates living and working in China and all across the Asia-Pacific region, as we work together – to borrow from President McRobbie – to set IU “on a course for greatness in her third century.”

All of us look forward to seeing our alumni again at tomorrow’s conference sessions!

Making new connections, gaining greater cultural understanding and launching a landmark cultural collaboration in China

These days, it’s nearly impossible to disentangle politics and current events from any discussion concerning China. Sure enough, recent news reports about the challenges confronting U.S.-China relations – and the overall state of global affairs – served as topics of conversation for IU delegation members during an all-day series of meetings and other activities in Beijing on Thursday.

This, in itself, was not at all surprising. Given the dominant headlines of the day, it’s truly a remarkable time to be in China (just as it was almost surreal to be in Seoul several days ago as the leaders of North and South Korea prepared for their historic inter-Korean summit meeting in Pyongyang).

Outside of Tsinghua University Art Museum.

More noteworthy – at least to this humble traveling correspondent – is how much our conversations today underscored the vital importance of university engagement in international affairs. Indeed, politics didn’t preclude members of the IU delegation – and the Chinese leaders in arts and culture, education, finance and government with whom they met today – from emphasizing the ever-critical nature of internationally focused institutions like IU enhancing their global outreach. These efforts prepare students to live and work in a complex and interconnected world, gain greater global competencies and cultural understanding, and meet the most pressing challenges facing the planet.

Moving forward: A new partner in the social sciences

McRobbie, IU Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum and their IU colleagues began their Thursday morning at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s premier academic organization and comprehensive research center in the fields of philosophy and the social sciences.

Established in 1977, CASS consists of nearly 40 research institutes and 90 research centers, which are engaged in scholarly activities in such areas as literature, philosophy, history, economics, law, political science and international studies. Over the years it has established international academic exchange programs with more than 100 countries around the world. CASS also has a small fledgling university, CASSU, established just two years ago. (In today’s meeting, several CASSU representatives joked about how much time they would need to catch up to IU, which will celebrate its 200th anniversary next year!)

IU President Michael A. McRobbie, left, and Cai Fang, vice president of the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences, sign the first-ever agreement of friendship and cooperation between their respective institutions.

Setting the stage for today’s meeting, a delegation of eight IU faculty members and administrators from IU’s Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses arrived at CASS in the spring to explore the potential for joint student and faculty exchanges. The delegation was led by IU Associate Vice President for International Affairs Gil Latz, with Ethan Michelson, associate professor in sociology and law and the academic co-director for the IU China Gateway office, also providing key direction. Michelson has lived and conducted research in China for almost eight years.

Collectively, the group identified a number of areas where there is potential for good collaboration with CASS, including Chinese history, sociology, public administration and folklore. (Joining us at today’s meeting was IU alumna Jessica Turner, executive director of the American Folklore Society, now based at IU Bloomington with more than 2,200 folklorists from around the world as its members.)

For their part – and stemming from their own visit to Indiana in 2017 – CASS faculty and staff have expressed an interest in learning more about economic, policy and socioeconomic issues in Indiana and, more broadly, the Midwest – a region of our nation that, more than any other, has undergone considerable political change in recent years. As President McRobbie indicated, this change has not been studied and understood as well as other developments on the east and west coasts of the U.S., which may lead to other interesting opportunities for collaboration with CASS.

After a lively discussion, McRobbie and CASS Vice President Cai Fang signed the first-ever agreement of friendship and cooperation between their respective institutions. The agreement calls for continued discussions involving senior leaders from IU’s College of Arts and Sciences, School of Global and International Studies and School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Understanding the economy and education in China

Following the agreement-signing at CASS, President McRobbie and his fellow delegation members met with Tian Guoli, chairman of the China Construction Bank. CCB is one of the “big four” banks in China, the second-largest bank in the world by market capitalization and the sixth-largest company in the world. The bank has more than 13,500 domestic branches and institutions in 30 countries around the world.

While at CCB, McRobbie and Guoli engaged in a lively discussion, during which Guoli described the major issues facing China’s economy and McRobbie discussed the enormous contributions IU’s students from China – and countries from every corner of the world – have made to enhancing the educational environment on IU’s campuses across Indiana. IU has more than 8,000 international students. Of that number, more than 3,100 students are from China, making it the leading country of origin for international students at the university. McRobbie also talked about the great goodwill generated around the globe – for Indiana and its flagship public university – by IU’s more than 7,000 alumni affiliated with China, many of whom have gone on to become leaders across East Asia in academia, business and government.

Members of the IU delegation met with Tian Guoli, chairman of the China Construction Bank, pictured at center.

From CCB, it was on to a meeting at the Chinese Ministry of Education, which regulates all aspects of the educational system, including higher education. While there, McRobbie shared with Ministry Director General Xu Tao news of IU’s new partnership with CASS as well as the university’s overarching goal of expanding student and faculty exchanges with China and ensuring a continued welcoming environment for Chinese students and scholars on all of the university’s campuses.

The number of Chinese scholars teaching and conducting research at IU, numbering roughly 500, continues to grow. Furthermore, as School of Global and International Studies Founding Dean Lee Feinstein shared at today’s meeting, there are some 500 IU students learning Chinese language at all levels of instruction, including some who are studying in China, an increasingly popular choice for overseas study. Indeed, China now ranks in the top 10 countries where IU students choose to study abroad, and it’s now the No. 1 study-abroad destination for students from the IUPUI campus.

During the meeting, McRobbie nicely summed up IU’s philosophy behind its engagement in East Asia and other dynamic parts of the world.

“If you want to be the best physicist in the world, you have to work with the best scientists in the world,” he said. “No one country has a monopoly on the best brains. Likewise, if you want to be one of the world’s great research universities, you have to work with the best universities.”

Celebrating the ‘Americans Abroad’ exhibition

Finally, the entire IU delegation joined approximately 200 guests, including a number of distinguished IU alumni and former faculty members, at the magnificent Tsinghua University Art Museum for the opening of the exhibition “Americans Abroad: Landscape and Artistic Exchange, 1800-1920.”

The exhibition celebrates the beginning of a multiyear partnership between the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU and the Tsinghua University Art Museum, and it marks the first collaboration of its kind between university art museums in the U.S. and China.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie speaks at the opening of the “Americans Abroad” exhibition, part of a new multiyear partnership between the Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU and the Tsinghua University Art Museum.

The IU Eskenazi Museum of Art is currently undergoing an extensive renovation of its building, which was designed by renowned Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, and is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2019. While that renovation is underway, IU is partnering with Tsinghua University Art Museum, which is part of one of China’s leading universities. Tsinghua will send its own exhibition of Chinese scroll paintings from its permanent collection to the Eskenazi Museum of Art once its renovation is complete.

The “Americans Abroad” exhibition examines landscape painting as a means of international exchange, as well as how early American artists looked to Europe for cultural and artistic inspiration that would allow them to depict their own national landscape. It also explores the influence of travel, study abroad, expatriation in Europe and French Impressionism on the development of American art.

Among its 50 featured paintings are important works by Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, Jasper F. Cropsey, Maurice Brazil Pendergast and Winslow Homer. Thirty-eight of the paintings are from the Eskenazi Museum’s permanent collection, and 12 are on loan from the IU Campus Art Collection, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields and the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago.

In his remarks at this evening’s opening ceremony, President McRobbie described the essential role the arts play in the development of citizens who are equipped to be productive and thoughtful participants in a rapidly changing world. He also shared a quote from Zhang Yanyuan, a Chinese art historian and painter of the late Tang Dynasty (618-907), who wrote, the “art of painting exists to enlighten ethics, improve human relationships, divine the changes of nature and explore hidden truths.”

In that spirit, the opening of this extraordinary exhibition offered an enlightening and inspiring end to a busy day in Beijing, one in which we celebrated progress, new partners and the promise of greater IU engagement here in East Asia in the months and years ahead.

A winning formula

Chemistry was the word of the day for Wednesday as the IU delegation – fresh (if not still a bit jet-lagged) from a productive start to the week in South Korea – entered into the China portion of its presidential trip to East Asia. Our arrival kickstarted a series of events and activities designed to celebrate – and recharge – the university’s longstanding engagement in one of the most strategically important regions of the world.

IU degrees, such as this one on display at Nankai University in China, have always been in high demand around the world.

All of the elements that have helped IU establish its leading role as one of our nation’s most globally focused universities are at work in China, a country that impacts, in massive fashion, nearly every facet of current geopolitical affairs.

Since I did far better as a student in English than I did in the sciences, I’ll simply call those elements the four P’s.

For starters, there’s past history. IU’s ties to China, in fact, go all the way back to the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912), the last imperial dynasty of China, when IU graduate William Alexander Parsons Martin worked in Beijing as an interpreter for the American minister to China. He later taught international law and served as president of the School of Combined Learning in Beijing.

Then there are the programs. IU’s Bloomington campus possesses some of the nation’s pre-eminent scholarship in China studies, which encompass teaching and research programs on the culture and history of China as well as beginning and advanced courses in Mandarin, Cantonese and classical Chinese languages. IU also has one of the few highly prestigious U.S. government-funded flagship centers in Mandarin, which are focused on further developing best practices for the teaching of this language. It is one of several Title VI centers housed in the university’s School of Global and International Studies, which teaches more than 70 foreign languages annually – far more than any other U.S. college or university. All of IU’s programs are also supported by the IU China Gateway office, one of four such offices that constitute IU’s expanding Global Gateway Network.

Of course, schools, centers and programs are only as good as the people who drive them. IU has more than 8,000 international students. Of that number, more than 3,100 students are from China, making it the leading country of origin for international students at the university. Continuing an upward trend, China currently ranks in the top 10 countries where IU students choose to study abroad, and it’s now the No. 1 study-abroad destination for students from the IUPUI campus.

IU now also has more than 7,000 alumni affiliated with China. They represent some of the most loyal and dedicated graduates of the university, and we are looking forward to reconnecting with them later this week at the IU Is Global 2018 Alumni Conference and Reunion. So many of them have gone on to successful careers here and elsewhere around the world. Since the time of IU’s first Chinese graduate –Showin Wetzen Hsu, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history at IU in 1909 before returning to China to serve in a number of high-level governmental and judicial positions – there has been a powerful tradition of IU alumni returning to render distinguished service to Chinese society as scholars, government officials and industry leaders.

Finally, there are the partnerships that IU has developed for many decades with several of China’s leading educational institutions. These partnerships have resulted in numerous student and faculty exchanges that have helped generate a greater level of understanding of a country that continues to have an enormous economic, cultural and political impact on the rest of the world and the most critical challenges facing the planet in the 21st century.

Honoring the past and celebrating new beginnings at Nankai

On Wednesday morning, members of the IU delegation set out from Beijing, where they’d only just dropped their luggage, to the coastal metropolis of Tianjin and to Nankai University, one of the top universities in China and the world for the study of chemistry. Remarkably, the chemistry department at Nankai itself has close to 400 faculty members, which would make it a “college” at some schools.

Nankai University.

Beginning in the 1980s and until around the late 2000s, IU and Nankai had a graduate student and faculty exchange stemming, in part, from a long-ago connection with the Department of Chemistry in IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences. Nankai’s chemistry department was founded by professor Shixian Yang, who would serve as the university’s president from 1957 to 1969 and again from 1979 to 1981. Starting in the 1930s, Yang built connections with Eli Lilly chemists, and he spent time in the early to mid-1940s at IU, during which time he was instrumental in recruiting two renowned scholars to study at IU.

The late Binglin He and Ruyu Chen, who were husband and wife, are two of the most distinguished Chinese alumni in IU’s history, and both are known throughout China for their pioneering work in chemistry. Professor He began graduate work in chemistry at IU Bloomington in 1948, and he was joined six months later by his wife, Chen, in the same doctoral program. They both earned doctorates in chemistry from IU in 1952; four years later, they returned to China.

Here at Nankai, the campus has held extensive celebrations in commemoration of the anniversary of He’s birth 100 years ago this year and his numerous accomplishments. He went on to become known as China’s “father of ion exchange resins,” and he established the first ion exchanger plant in China. The practical applications of his scientific research include national defense, medical science and environmental protection. He was the founding head of the Polymer Chemistry Division, the founding director of the Polymer Chemistry Institute and chair of the Department of Chemistry, which subsequently became the College of Chemistry. He was also the founding president of Qingdao University, while continuing his service at Nankai.

His extensive list of awards and honors includes his induction into the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and he has been widely recognized for both his scholarship and his contributions to China’s national development. A memorial commemorating his life and work was established in his hometown of Panyu in Guangdong Province, and a statue of his likeness was added to the Nankai campus.

Professor Chen went on to become a pioneer in pesticide research in China, and she was also a prominent professor of chemistry at Nankai. She directed Nankai’s Pesticide Laboratory, one of the first laboratories of its kind in China, and she was awarded a patent for the development of a pesticide. In 1980, Chen was inducted into the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Her numerous other awards and honors include membership in the United Kingdom’s Royal Society of Chemistry.

Together, the couple was not only known for being world-class scholars, but also for their deep concern for the personal well-being of their students and colleagues. To this end, Professor He divided all of his research, scholarship and prize money earnings between all the members of his teams, and he regularly gave his own share to graduate students who were experiencing financial difficulties.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie presents Norman Ho, right, son of the late Nankai University professors and IU alumni Binglin He and Ruyu Chen, with IU’s Thomas Hart Benton Medallion in honor of two of the most distinguished Chinese alumni in IU’s history.

On Wednesday morning, a special ceremony was attended by about 200 Nankai students, staff and distinguished guests, including Nankai Party Secretary Qingshan Yang. There, IU President Michael A. McRobbie formally recognized the career achievements of He and Chen – and all that they did to improve the quality of life for people in China and beyond – by posthumously presenting them with the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion. The prestigious honor is given to individuals who have represented IU and its ideals in extraordinary fashion around the world.

Accepting the honors for the professors was one of their sons, Norman. Choking back tears, he spoke lovingly and admiringly of his parents, whom, he said, he and many others looked up to because of what they accomplished in their search for knowledge and how well they served the Chinese people. Almost everyone I talked to agreed that Norman’s poignant speech – and the pride he wore on his face as he accepted the Benton bronze medal on behalf of his parents – made for one of the most moving IU awards ceremonies in recent memory.

They also added to a feeling, one felt throughout the day, that IU and Nankai – as they honored this special and shared past – might seize an opportunity to renew and reinvigorate their longstanding relationship. (Several IU faculty administrators traveled to Tianjin earlier this summer with this objective in mind.) What’s more, Nankai will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019, at the same time that IU kicks off its Bicentennial, and the two universities share a top strategic goal of becoming even more engaged internationally (meaning more student and faculty exchanges and other collaborative activities on a variety of fronts) as they enter their second and third centuries, respectively.

Translation: All of the elements are there to create a formula for strengthening an already proven and productive partnership.

Members of the IU delegation with representatives from Nankai University after the presentation of the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion.

Partnerships, progress and the pursuit of international skill and understanding

On a sunny and clear day such as today, and especially in the evening, the Seoul skyline is a truly spectacular sight. A dazzling outline of South Korea’s largest and capital city is formed by mountains, hills, skyscrapers and other modern high-rise business and apartment buildings – including the recently opened Lotte World Tower, now the fifth-tallest building in the world, and the Seoul Tower, the iconic communications and observation tower located high on top of Namsan Mountain. On the ground below, the Han River, Seoul’s most defining landmark, intersects the bustling city streets where cars, buses and taxis zoom past Starbucks and other coffee shops, contemporary shopping malls, convenience stores, chic boutiques, old-world markets, museums (Seoul has more than 100!) and grand palaces, several of which reside on sites dating back to the 14th century.

Flags flying above the Academy of Korean Studies.

All of this reflects the continuing historical, cultural and economic importance – and the recent global rise – of South Korea, one of the fastest-growing, developed nations in the world, the third largest economy in Asia and the 11th largest on the planet. It is also among the world’s most technologically advanced and digitally connected countries, a leading exporter in the consumer electronics industry, as well as one of America’s most vital economic, political and military partners in the region.

South Korea increasingly looms large over geopolitical affairs, as evidenced by today’s events. As members of the Indiana University delegation embarked upon their first series of meetings in Seoul, South Korea President Moon Jae-in was preparing to sit down on Tuesday with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, at a three-day summit meeting in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. There, the two leaders were expected to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, U.S.-North Korean relations and the possibility of declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended with an armistice that has left the Korean Peninsula technically still at war.

News of another inter-Korean summit underscored the critical importance of the university’s continued engagement in East Asia toward facilitating greater understanding of the people, political forces and pressing issues impacting this strategically important part of the world.

The IU-Korea connection

An urgent need for graduates with genuine international and intercultural skills and competencies has led, in recent years, to IU’s commitment to expand and enhance its longstanding, deep and extensive ties to Korea.

Case in point: More than 8,000 international students are enrolled at IU. Of that number, over 700 students are from Korea, making it the third-leading country of origin for international students at IU, and they continue to make vital contributions to the academic and cultural life of the campus.

Members of the IU delegation pose for a picture with IU students studying this fall at Yonsei University.

Over the past several years, IU has seen a dramatic increase in the number of its students – now more than 50, up from 14 just four years ago – choosing to study abroad in Korea. Students from IU’s Kelley School of Business, for example, travel to Korea to learn about emerging economic markets. Groups from IU’s top-rated School of Public and Environmental Affairs have also traveled to Seoul to study the effects of globalization on Korea’s government, business and nonprofit sectors. In 2015, student members of the IU Chamber Orchestra in IU’s world-renowned Jacobs School of Music traveled to Seoul for a series of unforgettable and high-profile concerts, culminating in a performance at the Seoul Arts Center, Korea’s foremost art and culture complex.

Many IU faculty members have extensive research collaborations with faculty members at institutions in Korea, and IU’s institutional partnerships with Korea’s leading universities are among our strongest international research and educational partnerships. For example, IU’s partnership with Yonsei University is now more than three decades old (more on this in a bit), and the university has agreements in place with Ewha Womans University, Seoul National University and Sungkyunkwan University, among others in Korea and many more throughout Asia.

What’s more, today there are more than 5,100 IU alumni affiliated with Korea, and they include successful business leaders, government officials, faculty members at Korea’s leading universities and members of the diplomatic core. Our Korean alumni, who make up the highly active Korea Chapter of the IU Alumni Association, are among our finest, most passionate and most enthusiastic international ambassadors. In 2009, the university held its International Alumni Conference and Reunion here in Seoul, with alumni coming from around the world to participate. In a few days, IU will hold another such alumni celebration, “IU Is Global 2018,” which it expects to be equally successful, in Beijing.

The Midwestern hub for Korean studies

In 2016, the university took a major step forward in committing itself to greater engagement in Korea and, more broadly, in East Asia by formally inaugurating a new Institute for Korean Studies, which is housed within the IU School of Global and International Studies.

The program, one of the only such academic institutes of its kind in the U.S., is off to a rousing start, as it rapidly advances IU’s bold mission to become the Midwestern hub in the U.S. for the study of contemporary Korea.

To this end, during its first year of operation, the institute won a Core University Program grant from the Academy of Korean Studies, a five-year award totaling close to $1 million that is allowing the institute to strengthen Korean studies at IU as well as across the Midwest at four partner institutions: Purdue University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.

Members of the IU delegation with representatives from the Academy of Korean Studies.

In more recent months, under the able leadership of Seung-kyung Kim, director and inaugural Korea Foundation Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, the institute has added faculty expertise across various aspects of Korean studies, including inter-Korean relations. The institute has also begun revitalizing a graduate student program; launched a scholar-in-residence program with inaugural scholar and IU Jacobs School of Music graduate Young Ju Lee from Daegu National University of Education; and led various conferences, colloquia and special programming, such as a film screening at IU Cinema this year.

On Monday morning, IU President Michael A. McRobbie, Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum, Director Kim and their fellow IU delegation members traveled to a satellite city just outside Seoul to meet with representatives of the Academy of Korean Studies – including new President Byung-ook Ahn – to thank them for their support of the institute and discuss future funding opportunities. The IU contingent also provided their counterparts at the academy with a well-received update on other recent progress demonstrating IU’s leadership in international education, foreign languages and area studies. Included in the update was last month’s announcement that IU had received 18 separate grants – more than any other U.S. college or university – under the Department of Education’s prestigious Title VI program.

A day of reinvigoration at Yonsei

The IU delegation would spend most of Monday at Yonsei University, widely considered one of Korea’s most prestigious teaching and research universities and one of IU’s closest international partners. IU and Yonsei have participated in student and faculty exchanges since 1986.

Underwood Hall at Yonsei University.

The trip to Yonsei, with its beautiful ivy-covered buildings and lush green campus grounds, provided the IU group with a chance to reconnect with some old and quite successful friends, including IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs alumni Yon Seob Ha and Tae Joon Lah, both of whom teach public administration and occupy high-ranking positions at Yonsei. Both spoke enthusiastically about the number of IU alumni on the Yonsei faculty (around a dozen) and the number of IU students (eight) taking courses this fall at Yonsei, a campus that continues to rise in global stature. Both also talked excitedly about coming back to Bloomington in the coming years and checking out new developments on campus, such as the highly anticipated new International Center, which will soon serve as the heart of international programming and student activities on campus.

Happily, President McRobbie squeezed in a quick meet-and-greet with IU’s eight students studying at Yonsei, who took time out of their busy schedules to share a bit about their studies and time in Seoul.

Next, McRobbie and members of the IU delegation were escorted to the President’s Office, where they met with Yonsei President Young-Hak Kim and Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations from 2007 to 2016. Ban currently serves as honorary chairman at Yonsei University’s Institute for Global Engagement and Empowerment, which is directing various university expertise and resources toward addressing major challenges such as climate change, poverty and inequality. A positive discussion ensued about reinvigorating the partnership between IU and Yonsei, seeking new opportunities for collaboration and cooperation, and working collectively to build – to borrow from Ban – “better global citizens.”

Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations from 2007 to 2016, meets IU President Michael McRobbie.

Finally, at the end of a nonstop day of meetings in Seoul, it was great to catch up and unwind at dinner with some of IU’s most distinguished and accomplished Korean alumni. Among those we were able to see once again were Young-Jin Kim, chairman and CEO of Handok Inc., and William Joo, chairman of MediaWill Co. Kim’s and Joo’s financial generosity helped make possible IU’s first endowed chair in Korean studies, the first such position to be established at IU’s School of Global and International Studies, now held by Seung-kyung Kim. It was also great to see Jae Ha Lee, dean of the SKK Graduate School of Business at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and current president of IU’s Korea Alumni Chapter.

Together, this group of proud graduates demonstrated that there truly are no better global citizens than IU’s international alumni, who bring their best selves to IU as students, go on to serve as the university’s greatest ambassadors wherever they choose to live and work, and keep all of us closely connected to the people and places that are having an impact all around the world.

New cultural connections, educational partnerships and the expansion of IU’s engagement in East Asia

Annyeonghaseyo! Ni hao! Hello! And welcome to the IU Goes to Korea and China blog!

Beginning Monday, an Indiana University delegation, led by IU President Michael A. McRobbie and Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum, will embark upon a weeklong trip to two nations and a region of the world where the university’s ties are deep, extensive and continually expanding.

Tsinghua University Art Museum at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

IU has a history of successful engagement with Korea and China, spanning many decades and including productive partnerships with a number of East Asia’s premier institutions of teaching, learning and research. Over the years, these collaborative activities have encompassed a vast array of academic areas, including the arts, business, computer science, education, engineering, international studies, languages, law, media, philanthropy, public and environmental affairs, and public health.

The more than 3,200 Chinese students and over 700 Korean students who currently study at IU represent about half of the university’s international student population and are a vital part of the life of the university. Both countries are also increasingly popular destinations for IU students who study abroad.

Many IU faculty and staff have close personal and professional connections to Korea and China that have led to the establishment of institutional partnerships and furthered opportunities for student exchanges.

IU’s East Asian Studies Center, now nearly four decades old and a nexus of knowledge of the region, continues to link the university’s teaching, research and outreach activities related to East Asia to the needs of U.S. business, education and government. It is one of a record 11 area studies centers and programs at IU’s School of Global and International Studies to recently be awarded grant funding under the Department of Education’s prestigious Title VI program.

Furthermore, the thousands of Hoosier alumni who are from Korea and China continue to serve as global ambassadors for the university. Collectively, they make enormous contributions to the life and impact of IU around the world. Their individual experiences convey unique stories of the value of an IU education and what makes the Hoosier state such a vibrant place to live, work and study more than any ranking or advertisement could. And increasingly, many of IU’s graduates from this part of the world are choosing to stay in Indiana to launch new business ideas, which can often lead to a ripple effect of new jobs and investment.

For several decades now, East Asia has been a major focal point of IU’s global mission. That mission, as outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, calls for IU to cement its position as one of the world’s pre-eminent global universities by increasing study abroad opportunities for its students, recruiting talented foreign scholars to its campuses and strengthening its connections with the university’s many international alumni living and working around the world. These efforts are all part of IU’s expanding Global Gateway Network, which now includes offices in Beijing, Berlin, Mexico City and New Delhi that connect the IU community with resources that make possible international programs, projects and other activities.

More broadly speaking, IU’s expansion of partnerships and its alumni outreach in Korea and China also reflects the university’s legacy of global engagement that is intended — in the words of the university’s legendary 11th president, Herman B Wells — to bring Indiana to the world and the world to Indiana.

Members of the Beijing chapter of the IU Alumni Association.

While overseas, President McRobbie, who is making his seventh visit to Korea and ninth official trip to China since becoming IU president in 2007, Vice President Buxbaum and their IU colleagues will meet with leaders in education, business and culture in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, China’s capital of Beijing and China’s coastal metropolis of Tianjin. There they will seek to expand IU’s partnerships toward the goal of generating greater opportunities for scholarly and cultural exchanges and increasing IU students’ understanding of this dynamic and strategically important part of the world.

To this end, while in Seoul, the delegation will meet with two major funding organizations, the Korea Foundation and the Academy of Korean Studies, which have helped enable a successful new Institute for Korean Studies, launched in 2016 and housed within IU’s School of Global and International Studies. The institute, one of the only such academic institutes of its kind in the U.S., is rapidly positioning IU as the Midwestern hub for Korean studies and at the forefront of preparing students to meet global challenges, interpret major international events and examine crucial contemporary issues.

In Beijing, the delegation will join other university leaders in attending the opening of a major new exhibition at the Tsinghua University Art Museum, which is the result of a new multiyear partnership between Tsinghua University and the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at IU. The exhibition, “Americans Abroad: Landscape and Artistic Exchange, 1800-1920,” is curated by Jennifer McComas, curator of European and American Art at the Eskenazi Museum at IU, and features 50 European and American paintings drawn primarily from the IU museum’s permanent collection.

Although other U.S. museums have sent exhibitions to China in recent years, this partnership is likely the first between university art museums in the U.S. and China. And it reflects IU’s increasing stature as a worldwide leader in major international art collaborations, which include, most notably, the university’s partnership with the renowned Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, which is enabling students, scholars, museum professionals and members of the general public around the world to view the museum’s irreplaceable classical antiquities in 3D online, from anywhere in the world.

Finally, at the end of the week (Sept. 21-22), hundreds of IU alumni and friends from China and across the globe will gather at the “IU Is Global 2018” conference and reunion in Beijing. Co-hosted by IU and the Beijing Chapter of the IU Alumni Association, and sponsored by the IU Office of the Bicentennial, the event will feature multidisciplinary panels from distinguished IU faculty, alumni and leaders on global topics including innovation, public health, the environment and the legal profession in a global context. Attendees will also hear a Bicentennial update from President McRobbie and a keynote address from Michael Uslan, IU alumnus and executive producer of 1989’s “Batman” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight.”

And I’ll be there as well, delivering real-time reports on the IU delegation’s daily activities and providing news, background information, images and insights into IU’s continued engagement in this important part of the world.

I hope you will follow along with me, and please feel free to contact me directly with questions or comments at

See you soon in Seoul!