Seeking to cultivate ties, U. officials visit China, India

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

University delegations traveled to India and China in March and April, continuing the University’s efforts to establish ties in those countries. Both trips, led by Vice President for Research Clyde Briant, focused on building research and exchange ties with specific universities.

In China, officials sought to build ties with Zhejiang University in the southeastern city of Hangzhou. Zhejiang’s president, Wei Yang PhD’85, studied engineering at Brown and has expressed interest in connecting the two universities. While at Zhejiang, the Brown delegation participated in a “signing ceremony” to declare hope that the universities will work together in the future.

Briant, Associate Dean of Medicine Julianne Ip, Professor of Sociology Michael White and four engineering professors traveled to Zhejiang April 9-13. The university has over 40,000 students, including some 23,600 undergraduates. Fields of study at Zhejiang range from engineering to philosophy, unlike the Indian universities Briant and others visited in that country.

In India, the Brown delegation visited three universities, all with a science and technology focus – the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the Indian Institute of Science, which is in Bangalore. The trip took place March 20-29 and included Briant, Vice President for International Advancement Ronald Margolin, Dean of Engineering Greg Crawford and three engineering graduate students.

Briant said the trip had three main objectives: to discuss possible research partnerships with the three Indian universities, to continue discussions with Indian companies that offer internships to Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship concentrators and to introduce Crawford to some of Briant’s Indian contacts.

Briant preceded Crawford as dean of engineering before taking his current post in July 2006 and had traveled to India twice in that capacity – in 2004 and again last year.

Possible areas of exchange with the Indian universities include nanotechnology, mechanics of materials and entrepreneurship – specifically Brown’s Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship, with which the graduate students traveling with Briant, Margolin and Crawford – John McMurdy GS, Fred Biga GS and Anthony Napolitano GS – are involved, Briant said.

IIT Bombay – which retains the name given at its 1958 inception even though Bombay is now known as Mumbai – lists on its Web site four U.S. universities with which it has signed “memoranda of understanding” establishing official relationships, including Harvard and Northwestern universities. Brown is not on the list.

IIT Delhi, along with IIT Bombay, is one of seven Indian institutes of technology aimed at providing instruction in engineering and applied sciences. It claims nearly 5,000 students – 2,265 undergraduate – on its Web site.

The Indian Institute of Science, which Briant described as primarily focused on graduate study, “is neither a national laboratory which concentrates solely on research and applied work nor a conventional university which concerns itself mainly with teaching. But the institute is concerned with research in frontier areas and education in current technologically important areas,” according to its Web site.

“We think it would be good to work with universities and have a chance for Brown students to go spend time there and their students to come spend time here,” Briant said of the possible ties with those universities. “I think having a research component is important because for the faculty that will get their interest in it as well on both sides to really have different kinds of exchange.”

Brown has made both China and India priorities in its internationalization effort, which was made official last fall with the creation of a committee to recommend initiatives and the decision to appoint a vice president for international affairs to coordinate the University’s efforts. President Ruth Simmons visited China twice in 2006, and both China and India have received specific attention from the internationalization committee.

Under Margolin’s guidance, the University will also establish within the next year regional advisory councils of influential alumni and others familiar with the respective countries. Margolin said he used the India trip to cultivate contacts for that effort.

In June, a delegation of faculty focused on East Asian studies will travel to the Chinese University of Hong Kong to discuss possible collaborations, according to Assistant Provost Shelley Stephenson, a member of the internationalization committee. The University received a “sizeable” gift from Karen Ho-Smith ’75 to cultivate links with Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as general ties in Hong Kong and China, Stephenson said.

Though the delegations were careful to learn about cultural differences in the countries they visited, language was not a major barrier in either visit, Briant said. In India, English is commonly spoken, and Professor of Engineering Huajian Gao, who traveled to China, is fluent in Mandarin.

“But I don’t recall us having to use him much in translation,” Briant said.

The four engineering professors who traveled to China were Professor of Engineering Robert Hurt, Associate Professor of Engineering Tayhas Palmore, Professor of Engineering Ben Freund and Gao.

Now back in Providence, the delegations will report back to Simmons and Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98, who will decide the next steps in advancing affiliations with the Indian universities and Zhejiang.

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