Reflections on a remarkable and inspiring week

We came. We saw. WeChat-ted.

It’s hard to believe we’ve arrived at the end of this week-long, whirlwind sojourn to South Korea and China, including stops in three of the world’s largest, most technologically advanced and most economically dynamic cities.

Beijing Normal University Professor Liu Baocun and IU President Michael A. McRobbie pose for a picture after formalizing a longstanding partnership between their respective universities.

Beijing Normal University Professor Liu Baocun and IU President Michael A. McRobbie pose for a picture after formalizing a longstanding partnership between their respective universities.

(Just when I’d finally signed up for WeChat, the popular Chinese mobile messaging app that so many of our Asian alumni use to stay connected to one another, I’d begun packing my bags for the trip back to Bloomington!)

Time and again on this remarkable trip to Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai, we witnessed the power of IU’s partnerships and ever-expanding network of alumni and friends in East Asia, all eager to help IU achieve its mission to become one of the most internationalized universities anywhere in the world.

It was a trip that began, appropriately, the way it ended — with a large and enthusiastic gathering of IU’s wonderful overseas alumni. Their passion and pride in forever being associated with IU is simply infectious, and they truly represent, in the words of IU President Michael A. McRobbie, the university’s “best global ambassadors.”

In the days between those alumni celebrations, McRobbie, IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret and their fellow delegation members worked to pave pathways to new collaborative activities and institutional partnerships that promise to deliver added opportunities for IU students to study abroad; more research collaborations that span the globe and have the potential to solve some of the biggest issues facing our state, nation and world; and greater diversity across IU campuses that more closely matches the competitive, 21st century global marketplace that our graduates will enter into upon graduation.

This week was filled with several memorable events and activities that, without question, demonstrated the depth, breadth and impact of IU’s global engagement, including:

  • A celebration, in Seoul, of the 30th anniversary of the Korea Chapter of the IU Alumni Association, one of the university’s most loyal, energetic and engaged international alumni groups. More than 300 of IU’s Korean alumni attended the ceremony, which included a concert by a group of graduates from IU’s top-ranked Jacobs School of Music;
  • Meetings with the leaders of the Korea Foundation and Academy of Korean Studies, whose support, along with that of several prominent IU Korean alumni, made possible IU’s first endowed chair position in Korean studies, who now spearheads the School of Global and International Affairs’ new Institute for Korean Studies, one of the only such academic outfits of its kind in the U.S.;
  • A meeting at Korea’s National Assembly and with its speaker, Chung Sye-kyun, just one week before the historic vote today by the country’s parliament to impeach the country’s embattled president, Park Geun-hy;
  • A landmark symposium, held at the IU China Gateway office, on the path-breaking research of the late IU Nobel Laureate and Distinguished Professor Elinor “Lin” Ostrom. President McRobbie delivered the opening remarks at the all-day gathering, which included a number of students and scholars from China’s Ostrom Society, who are burnishing Lin’s legend in China through their writing and research.
  • The signing of a new partnership agreement between IUPUI’s School of Engineering and Technology and Tsinghua University, China’s top-ranked university, that will lead to joint research on autonomous cars and the future of human mobility;
  • A major address delivered by President McRobbie to Tsinghua University students and faculty on the role of universities in preserving knowledge and IU’s worldwide leadership in the area of media digitization and preservation;
  • The formalization of a highly productive 10-year partnership between IU, including its top-ranked School of Education, and Beijing Normal University, one of China’s oldest and most prestigious universities, resulting in the establishment of a new China-U.S. Joint Research Academy for International Education and laying the groundwork for future student and faculty exchanges in other academic areas where IU and BNU have common strengths;
  • A meeting with U.S. Ambassador to China and former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus to discuss, among other topics, how to ensure more U.S. students study abroad in China and IU’s success in expanding its presence here through its Global Gateway Network; and
  • Celebrations of IU’s increasingly active Chinese alumni chapters in Beijing and Shanghai, with more than 100 graduates attending each event. (More on the latter city’s celebration in a bit.)
IU alumni celebrating in Beijing.

IU alumni celebrating in Beijing.

As McRobbie frequently indicated in our various meetings this week, IU has nearly 9,000 international students enrolled on its campuses this fall, almost half of whom come from South Korea and China.

But in the end, it’s not the number of students, or where they come from specifically, that’s truly important. It’s how these students serve as a collective gateway of sorts for all IU students — especially those who may not have the chance to go overseas — to different cultures and unique and valuable perspectives from around the world.

Of course, study abroad is fast becoming synonymous with being a Hoosier student. Currently, more than a third of students at IU’s Bloomington campus will have participated in some form of study abroad by the time they graduate, engaging in an educational pursuit that so many of them describe as life-changing, and that number is rapidly nearing the 40 percent mark.

And then there are IU’s international alumni. IU now has more than 4,600 alumni affiliated with Korea and nearly 6,000 with China. Collectively, they make enormous contributions to the life and impact of IU around the world, spreading the word in their home countries — more than any ranking or large advertisement could — about all that makes an IU education so highly respected and Indiana such a vibrant place to live and study.

Celebrating IU’s alumni connections in Shanghai

Unfortunately, no number of words can do justice to how passionate and supportive IU’s international alumni are about their alma mater, how honored they are to welcome us to their home countries and how deeply they care about helping IU fulfill its promise to future generations of, in the words of IU’s legendary 11th President Herman Wells, of bringing “IU to the world and the world to IU.”

IU President McRobbie congratulates members of a victorious basketball team made up of IU Chinese alumni.

IU President McRobbie congratulates members of a victorious basketball team made up of IU Chinese alumni.

This evening in Shanghai, President McRobbie thanked IU’s Chinese alumni for their great dedication to the university and praised the Shanghai alumni chapter, specifically, for leading an impressive increase in alumni engagement here in recent years. He also shared highlights of the IU delegation’s productive week in China and Korea, the university’s record-breaking “banner year” and several exciting new events that will take place in the coming year, such as IU’s “China Remixed” festival, which will bring a number of celebrated Chinese artists and performers to Bloomington this coming spring.

Tonight’s celebration also included a few unique moments to Shanghai that served to spotlight the meaningful contributions IU’s Chinese students make to diversifying their campus communities and the impact IU has had on their lives.

The event featured a showing of a short documentary film on the Young Pioneers, the first Chinese team to participate in IU’s legendary Little 500 bicycle race tradition. The Young Pioneers were the first Little 5 team made up entirely of international students, and the film focuses on the fact that the Schwinn bicycles that the Young Pioneers and, in fact, all Little 500 riders use are made in China, in a factory in Changzhou.

Later in the celebration, proud members of an IU Chinese alumni basketball team accepted a trophy for their participation in a large college alumni basketball tournament. The trophy was presented by IU Kelley School of Business alumnus Ali Tuet, chairman of ESG Holdings Ltd. in China, who recently shared, in a Kelley school video, what made his experience at IU so valuable.

The evening concluded with a beautiful musical performance by Tuet accompanied by pianist Hanwen “Andy” Jiang, a 2013 Jacobs School of Music alumnus.

After several hours of celebration, members of the Shanghai Chapter took several well deserved bows and led the gathering in a rousing singalong of the IU fight song, calling to a close another great night for IU halfway across the world and putting the finishing touches on a most memorable and inspiring trip for members of IU’s delegation.

As I’ve learned now over several international trips, it’s never easy to say goodbye to IU’s great alumni, friends and partners overseas. But we did so this evening with the first-hand knowledge that the spirit of Indiana University is alive and thriving in Shanghai, as well as in Beijing and in Seoul, and with the promise of even greater IU engagement that will lead to new opportunities for students and scholars here in East Asia in the months and years to follow.

I hope to see all of our Chinese and Korean friends again very soon, and, of course, I’m excited to share more stories of IU’s amazing presence here with my friends and colleagues in Bloomington.

Until then, zàijiàn, annyeonghi kaseyo and goodbye, and thanks so much for reading!

P.S. And, of course, please follow me on WeChat!

Members of the IU Alumni Association's Shanghai alumni chapter.

Members of the IU Alumni Association’s Shanghai alumni chapter.

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