Regional councils will guide U.’s international pursuits

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The University will form regional advisory councils around the world to help Brown identify opportunities, build visibility and raise funds to support its internationalization effort, senior University officials told The Herald.

Vice President for International Advancement Ronald Margolin said he has begun assembling the first two councils – one that will focus specifically on China and another that will deal with Asia more generally – both of which should be active by the end of 2007. The creation of a third council, which will focus specifically on India, should begin soon, he added, and will be able to begin its work by March 2008.

Some preliminary discussions have also taken place on an Africa council, and University officials are also considering creating councils for Europe, the Middle East, Latin America generally and Brazil specifically, though there is no current timetable for the development of those councils, Margolin said.

The Office of the President and the Office of the Provost are collaborating with him on the effort, Margolin said.

Both President Ruth Simmons and Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 called the councils an important component of Brown’s official internationalization effort, which kicked off in October 2006 with the appointment of an internationalization committee chaired by Kertzer and the announcement of a search to recruit a vice president for international affairs.

“Our goal is to connect (alums) to us, give them a sense that we are helping them if they try to advance Brown’s interests in their part of the world and to come up with concrete suggestions for what we can do to enliven the effort,” Simmons told The Herald.

As the councils are set up “over the next several years,” Kertzer said, they will “help us in a variety of ways.”

Forming such international advisory groups has been on the University’s radar for some time, Margolin said. Though they are just now beginning to come to fruition, the first discussions of the possibility came roughly a year before the formal internationalization effort was publicly announced, he said.

The councils will consist of alums, parents and “friends of Brown” who are particularly knowledgeable and influential in their respective regions. They will advise Simmons and the yet-to-be-appointed vice president for international affairs on possible opportunities and work to raise Brown’s profile in their respective area of focus, Margolin said.

The council’s membership will include people who have “important positions in industry, education, commerce, diplomacy, government or media,” Margolin said, adding that they might be natives or foreigners and will not necessarily currently reside in the region on which they are advising.

As examples of the sort of influential, well-connected people University officials will ask to serve on the councils, Margolin identified Wei Yang PhD’85, president of Zhejiang University, and Wei Mingyi ScM’49, a former chairman of the China International Trust and Investment Company, a state-owned investment company founded in 1979 that seeks to attract foreign investment as part of efforts to open and reform China’s economy.

Neither has formally agreed to serve on the China council yet, Margolin said. “Those letters are just going out to them now,” he said.

A sample charge prepared by Margolin’s office calls for each council “to advise the president and senior administrators regarding opportunities for the greater involvement, visibility and reputation of Brown” in its country or region of focus.

Specifically, the charge elaborates, the councils could identify possible student internships, study abroad programs, educational and research partnerships, recruitment opportunities or “friends of Brown and sources of funding” in their target area. Other possible focuses could be media outreach and other activities to raise Brown’s visibility.

The councils, the charge states, will meet “at least one time a year.”

Both his own office and the office of the vice president for international affairs will work with and staff the councils, Margolin said. The first vice president for international affairs could be appointed as early as next month, according to members of the search committee.

The size of the councils is flexible, Margolin said, but the China and India councils will both likely begin with roughly 15 members, and the Asia-wide council will probably be somewhat larger. The aim is to start the councils at “a manageable size,” he added, but they could grow, especially if a council decides to form subcommittees with emphases on particular objectives, such as media outreach.

That China and India will each have their own committees reflects their international importance and appeal for Brown and other universities looking to build partnerships overseas. University officials have aggressively courted ties in those countries in recent years, with Simmons herself traveling to China twice in 2006 and other University delegations making trips to each country this spring to pursue research ties. A separate group of faculty and administrators will visit China in June.

Though Brazil has not yet figured prominently in the University’s internationalization outreach efforts, its inclusion as the only other country to potentially garner its own advisory council reflects its size, international prominence and the University’s already strong involvement with the country, Margolin said. Brown’s Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies is strong, Margolin said, and the Watson Institute for International Studies houses several Brazil experts, most notably Professor-at-Large Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former president of the country.

Margolin said the University is interested in drawing on the Watson Institute’s affiliations in forming the committees.

Cardoso and Richard Holbrooke ’62, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations and Germany who is also a Weston Institute professor-at-large, are two of Watson’s most high-profile connections, and Margolin said Simmons “might approach” them both for positions on the councils. Asia is one of several areas of expertise for Holbrooke, a former Herald editor-in-chief who is currently chairman of the Asia Society.

But Margolin said faculty and staff with more permanent ties to the University would not serve on the councils, due to the councils’ external advisory nature and the faculty’s ability to advise the University “through other channels.”

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