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Print Editions Saturday September 30th, 2023


Though the University's Year of China initiative ends next month, Brown will continue to set its sights abroad as it looks to develop an international presence and establish relationships with institutions in Asia. To this end, Ed Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, Lawrence Larson, dean of the School of Engineering, and Julianne Ip, associate dean of medicine, visited China in mid-April to strengthen ties with Zhejiang University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

While there, they concluded an agreement for a four-plus-one program in which students can complete their first four years at Zhejiang and then study for a final fifth year at Brown before earning a master's degree, Larson said.

 The University also has a medical student exchange with Zhejiang, Wing said, adding that he toured the hospitals and clinical units for the first time and developed "direct personal relationships" with the faculty there.

 Chinese officials are currently very interested in improving the country's health care system and learning about American medical techniques, Wing said, and many American students and faculty want to study Chinese medicine and traditional treatments. Both countries face similar public health issues such as obesity and stroke, and they can collaborate on research.

 Wei Yang PhD'85, president of Zhejiang University, will be receiving an honorary degree at Commencement next month.

 "We have a historical relationship with Zhejiang University," Larson said. "I think that the Year of China certainly helped to cement that relationship."

 Wing, Larson and Ip also travelled to Hong Kong and Japan to meet with alums and accepted students in the region. Larson said they hope to facilitate more student exchanges with the Tokyo Institute of Technology. 

 "We want the top students and scholars. We want them here teaching and studying at Brown," said Matthew Gutmann, vice president for international affairs. He added that he also wants students to be able to work with top scientists at universities around the world. 

 "There is an incredible desire for Chinese students to participate in universities in the U.S., and similarly our students have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in the growth of China through exchange programs," Larson said. "Brown is going to benefit enormously from having very close ties with people in China as the Chinese economy expands."

 The Year of China has indirectly created a lot of contacts for Brown and featured a number of events on campus such as a lecture series, a visiting dance troupe and art exhibitions, said Chung-I Tan P'95 P'03, professor of physics and director of the Year of China.

 "We set out to incorporate as many disciplines as possible," he said, adding that he was pleased the series went beyond aspects of culture and tradition to encompass science and social science as well.

Through the Year of China, Brown expanded its educational opportunities and examined both American and Chinese cultures. "We're taking a look at ourselves - how we fit into the world in which China is an increasingly important part," Tan said.

To conclude the series, there will be a film screening and lantern-making workshop at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts next week and a demonstration by a Chinese tea exporting company during the Year of China Gala May 21.

Past initiatives, such as the Year of India, which took place during the 2009-10 academic year, have led to long-term internationalization programs.  

The Brown Governing Board established the Brown-India Initiative, which has raised $10.75 million and will focus on academic research in South Asia while also engaging the public sphere and policy debate, said Ashutosh Varshney, professor of political science and director of the initiative. Its inaugural events will take place on campus in the fall and plan to include lectures by novelist Rana Dasgupta as well as Kaushik Basu, Cornell professor of economics and international studies and chief economic adviser to the government of India, and various Indian chief ministers, he said.

"It's important to put research ideas in the public sphere and not keep them confined to the ivory tower," Varshney said. "Any ideas that can improve the state of the world ought to be circulated and debated in the larger public sphere."

The University will be collaborating with five India-based organizations and will establish offices in New Delhi and Mumbai to help recruit talent. Undergraduate and graduate students will also be able to participate in the initiative through internship programs.

"A great deal of scholarly attention in the coming years will have to focus on the emerging parts of the world," Varshney said. "Brown's research will relate to changes in international and political economy. ... It will also have an impact on teaching and student interest and opportunities. The Eurocentrism of the 20th-century world is not sustainable."

Tan said it is unlikely a similar initiative will develop from the Year of China. Though it was the right step to take in India, it might not be appropriate for China, Tan said. Each year has "its own unique character, and it's all helping add to the overall internationalization," he said. He said he hopes President-elect Christina Paxson will develop the connections made with China in new ways.

 "Year of China is only part of the long-range goal of Brown's increasing internationalization initiatives," Tan said. "Hopefully the momentum we built this year can be carried forward."

 Gutmann said plans for the next "Year of" series have not yet been made, and instead of choosing a country, the University might center the year around a theme in the future.

 "We're very open, a lot o
f ideas are being offered," he said. In the past, there has been at least a one-year gap between the different "Year of" series.

"I think Brown has always been a global university. This is not new," he said. "But we're finding new and important ways to connect with the rest of the world." 


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