Final thoughts and reflections from Hong Kong
Surveying the stunningly massive skyline of Hong Kong – the world’s most vertical city and the IU delegation’s final stop on this historic two-week presidential trip to Asia – it was difficult not to reflect on all of the amazing people we met while in Asia, places we visited and the many new international partnerships that we managed to establish.
I’ve written thousands of words in this blog space over these last 13 days, but it’s difficult to put into words the overall impact of a historic and whirlwind trip that took IU President Michael McRobbie and his colleagues halfway across the world and to several of Asia’s most dynamic and diverse economies.
I could go on and on about the cultural, economic, geographic, historical and political contrasts among Japan, China, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong, differences that have been woven into the fabric of Asia over thousands of years. But perhaps it’s best to focus on a common thread tied the orderly traffic intersections of Tokyo to the hurried motorbike-lined streets Hanoi, and the bustling beltways of Beijing to the serenity of the Singapore harbor. That connection was education and, more specifically, its considerable power to bring people of vastly different cultures, backgrounds and experiences together in pursuit of a common cause: To make the world a better place for all of its citizens.
This power was reflected in the very first series of meetings the IU delegation had in Tokyo – at Japan’s most prestigious private university, Waseda University, which shares IU’s goal of being one of the world’s most global universities. While at Waseda, we met with senior leaders who are looking to double (to 8,000) the university’s record number of international students, welcome more foreign students to their campus, which was founded in 1882, and expand its academic offerings into areas in which IU has major expertise, including the study of languages, culture and philanthropy.
We also learned that IU and Waseda share the same number of living alumni worldwide (a remarkable 580,000), and we met with Waseda graduate Yasuyuki Ohara, who is a living example of how education can bridge both oceans and cultures. As chairman and CEO of the Tsuchiya Group, a billion dollar manufacturing industry, he has contributed to the economic well-being of Bloomington, even if many Hoosiers might not recognize his name. Tsuchiya’s roster of manufacturing and sales companies includes Tasus Corp., headquartered in Bloomington since 1986 and home to 180 employees.
That power was also reflected in our last series of meetings in Vietnam, where the future economic success of this complex and challenging country will depend greatly on whether it can strengthen the leadership capacities of its top public officials. To this end, IU, with its half-century-long history of institution-building in Asia and elsewhere around the world, and its top-ranked School of Public and Environmental Affairs, which offers some of the world’s foremost expertise in public policy and financial management, has a exceptional opportunity to have a profound and lasting impact in Vietnam. Indeed, IU and SPEA are already making a major difference through strong partnerships with Vietnam’s leading academic and government institutions and innovative initiatives such as the Vietnam Young Leader Awards program, spearheaded by IU professor, Vietnamese native and, I might add, magnificent tour guide Anh Tran.
And, not to be forgotten, that power permeated the grand opening of the new IU China Office in Beijing, the university’s second global gateway office, which will serve as IU’s new home base for activities in China. The office will accelerate IU’s academic initiatives and partnerships, which encompass almost all of China’s leading universities, including those with which IU signed new agreements during this trip: Tsinghua University, the China University of Political Science and Law and Beijing Sport University.
The historic opening of its Beijing office served as the latest chapter in IU’s storied history of engagement with China, a country in which IU has remarkably deep ties, dating back over a century. Its longstanding institutional partnerships have resulted in a steady stream of faculty and student exchanges; last year alone, 225 IU students studied in China and, currently, over 40 percent of IU’s 8,000 international students come from that country. What’s more, there are now more than 4,000 IU alumni affiliated with China living around the world.
Fittingly, the trip concluded with IU President McRobbie meeting with several prominent IU Asian alumni here in Hong Kong. There’s simply no overstating just what IU means to our international graduates and, conversely, the impact they continue to have on the university, even if they do live thousands of miles away. As IU President Michael McRobbie said on several occasions over the last two weeks, they are truly our university’s “greatest global ambassadors.”
In the last two weeks, IU alumni contributed to:
- record-sized alumni chapter gatherings in Tokyo and Singapore;
- a successful and spirited grand opening of the IU China Office;
- a celebratory reception at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear that included nearly all of the graduates of the Vietnam Young Leader Awards program as well as other alumni, friends and senior Vietnamese officials;
- the recognition, through two of IU’s most important international awards, several of IU’s most distinguished alumni, including renowned cellist Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi; successful entrepreneurs Vincent Mo, CEO of the largest real estate information provider in China, and Esmond Quek, founder and principal of Beijing’s leading brand consultancy firm; and former U.S. Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations David L. Carden; and
- a special alumni reception in Hong Kong, which served as a fitting cap to a trip that reflected both IU’s strong support around the world as its ever-increasing international impact.
As we prepare to depart Hong Kong and head home to Bloomington, I’m happy to report that IU spirit is alive and well in Asia and that the university’s strategic and energetic engagement here is only getting stronger.
Before I sign off, allow me to leave you with two memorable moments from this historic trip: a brief snippet of a stirring performance by Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi at a reception marking the 50th anniversary of IU’s alumni chapter in Japan and, from the opening of the IU China Office, a video of a traditional Chinese lion dance, which is often performed at celebratory occasions.
Please enjoy the videos, and thank you for reading! See you back in Bloomington soon!
Tags: Anh Tran, Beijing, China, Chinese lion dance, David Carden, David Shear, Esmond Quek, global gateway, Hanoi, Hong Kong, IU alumni, IU China Office, IU gateway, Japan, Michael A. McRobbie, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Singapore, SPEA, Tasus, Tokyo, Tsuchiya Group, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, Vietnam, Vietnam Young Leader Awards, Vincent Mo, Waseda University, Yasuyuki Ohara