Skip to main content
Indiana University

Stories of success, new opportunities in Malaysia

President McRobbie’s tour of Southeast Asia concluded with visits to University of Malaya and Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), both located in Kuala Lumpur, followed by an alumni reception on Thursday evening. IU has had a long-standing connection with Malaysia that stretches back several decades. With more than 5000 alumni, Malaysia has one of the largest groups of IU graduates in the world. As we discovered throughout the day’s activities, our alumni work across an array of industries and organizations. Some hold faculty positions at top universities, some are CEOs and high-ranking officials in the private sector, and some of the more recent graduates are already on a path to success.

University of Mayala and UiTM

The day began with a short tour of the University of Malaysia (UM) led by Dr. Jagdish Kaur, Deputy Director of the International and Corporate Relations Office. Following this, President McRobbie, Vice President Zaret, and the other delegation members met with Vice Chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon and deans from several academic programs. Dr. Ghauth talked about recent developments at UM, including the university’s recent decision to become autonomous and their strategies to diversify revenue streams in order to ensure long-term sustainability. As a major research institution, UM continues to focus on international engagement for collaborative research and student exchanges. In particular, Dr. Ghauth emphasized the need for more UM undergraduate students to study in the U.S. Additionally, he shared that there is an increasing need for students and faculty in non-science fields to gain international experience. With IU’s strengths in these areas, as well as an interest in expanding exchange opportunities for our own students, the potential for collaboration in the near future between our two universities is quite strong.

President McRobbie pictured with Vice Chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon

President McRobbie pictured with Vice Chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dr. Ghauth Jasmon

In the late morning hours, we visited Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), an expansive university system of 200,000+ students with campuses across Malaysia. President McRobbie met with Vice Chancellor Y. Bhg. Dato’ Professor Ir Dr. Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar; Dr. Hayati Mohd Dadan, an IU alumnus who serves as Director of the Office of International Affairs; and Penelope Tan, IU alumnus who serves as Head of International Cooperation, Training, and Development.

With a mission to prepare professionals, the university emphasizes increased educational access for Malaysians, in particular those in rural regions with limited financial resources. The Vice Chancellor’s own inspiring story, the feature of an article in The Times Higher Education, reflects this mission and underscores his intense passion for education. While research is done on the flagship campus in Kuala Lumpur, the university maintains a focus on its core mission.

President McRobbie and wife Laurie pictured with Vice Chancellor Y. Bhg. Dato’ Professor Ir Dr. Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar

President McRobbie and wife Laurie pictured with Vice Chancellor Y. Bhg. Dato’ Professor Ir Dr. Sahol Hamid Abu Bakar

Over the coming months, the Vice Chancellor plans to take a tour of universities in the United States, with a likely stop in Bloomington to discuss ways that our institutions might collaborate in the future.

Successful, energetic IU alumni

The alumni association in Malaysia is among the largest and most active IU chapter in the world, and Thursday night’s reception underscored the degree to which the alumni remain engaged and energized. More than 150 alumni gathered to catch up with each other, meet the IU contingent, and hear from President McRobbie about the many exciting things happening at IU. The reception was coordinated by Dr. Hayati Mohd Dahan, Aina Othman, and Teoh Thiam Heng,with assistance provided by the IU Alumni Association. Among the many highlights of the evening was the recognition of more than a dozen couples that got married while studying in Bloomington.

President McRobbie addresses the IU alumni in Malaysia

President McRobbie addresses the IU alumni in Malaysia

Honoring Professor H.A.R. Tilaar with the Thomas Hart Benton Medal

President McRobbie presents H.A.R. Tilaar with the Hart Benton Medal

President McRobbie presents H.A.R. Tilaar with the Hart Benton Medal

More than 200 IU alumni gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday night for a particularly special reception. Beyond serving as one of the alumni chapter’s regular gatherings, it included the presentation of the Thomas Hart Benton Medal by President McRobbie to IU School of Education alumnus H.A.R. Tilaar (MS’66, EdD’67). The medal is given to individuals who have achieved a level of distinction in public office or service and have exemplified the values of IU.

Tilaar is professor emeritus at the State University of Jakarta and a highly-influential voice for education in Indonesia. He spent 23 years as an educational specialist for BAPPENAS, the Indonesian government’s central planning agency, serving as deputy director for education and culture and assistant minister for human resource development. Tillar is the author of more than 200 articles and 20 books on Indonesian education, including the most comprehensive historical study to date. The Republic of Indonesia awarded him the “Bintang Jasa Utama,” or “Highest Service Star,” in 1998.

Accompanying Tilaar at the event was his wife Martha, the founder and president of Indonesia’s foremost cosmetic company group and expert on traditional jamu and herbal mixes. Her name and her products are well known and respected throughout Indonesia, and she is often referred to as the “Mother of Indonesia’s natural cosmetics.” When she was in the U.S. with her husband, she enrolled at the Academy of Beauty Culture in Bloomington. When she returned to Indonesia, Martha began intensive study with practitioners of traditional medicine, the start of her interest in the use of natural ingredients in cosmetic products. As a successful businesswoman and philanthropist, Martha has received many honors, among them an invitation in 2000 to become one of the founding members of the United Nations Global Compact.

President McRobbie and wife Laurie with the planning committee

President McRobbie and wife Laurie with Sulaeman Liong and the planning committee

The alumni reception was coordinated by chapter president Sulaeman Liong and planning committee members Erick Affrian, Devita M Soedjalmo, Mia Surya, Yoga Prakasa, Indiah Marsaban and Dhiny Novianti. One of the outstanding moments of the evening was an angklung performance by a group of young performers. The angklung is a musical instrument made of two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. The tubes are carved to have a resonant pitch when struck. After performing a few popular songs, the group treated the attendees to a special performance of the IU Alma Mater and fight song. Following this, group leader Mang Udjo got the attendees involved to play a couple of musical selections: each attendee was provided an angklung representing one of eight octaves. Using different hand positions, Mang Udjo directed attendees through several popular songs. The interactivity energized the group and will certainly be among the most memorable international alumni events.


Angklung performance at the IU alumni reception in Jakarta

Angklung performance at the IU alumni reception in Jakarta

Exploring potential collaborations in Jakarta

On Monday, President McRobbie and Vice President David Zaret visited the University of Indonesia and the State University of Jakarta to learn more about each institution and explore potential areas for collaboration.

University of Indonesia

Founded in 1849, University of Indonesia (UI) has evolved into a modern, comprehensive university with a strong emphasis on research. UI is considered to be among the top universities in Indonesia. In recent years, the university has expanded ties with a number of international universities, including Washington University, Tokyo University, Melbourne University, Sydney University, Erasmus University, Kyoto University, Leiden University, Peking University, Tsinghua University, Australian National University, and the National University of Singapore.

President McRobbie shakes the hand of Sunardji

President McRobbie with Sunardji

The IU delegation was welcomed at UI by Junaidi, Head of the International Office, and Sunardji, the Vice Rector of Research, Development and Industrial Cooperation. Several program chairs — representing nursing, social and political sciences, humanities, and computer science — also joined the meeting to share the interests of their particular faculty. Some contact has already occurred between faculty at IU and UI to identify and discuss more specific areas for potential collaboration, and both parties anticipate these conversations will continue positively moving forward.

Jakarta State University

IU has an established connection with Jakarta State University by way of the U.S./Indonesia Teacher Education Consortium (USINTEC), a binational higher education consortium comprised of 16 member institutions that was established in 2006. IU is one of the participating U.S. universities. The goal of USINTEC is “to bring together the individual and collective strengths and resources of its member institutions with public and private sector alliance members committed to Indonesian education and teacher quality, broadly conceived.”

The afternoon meeting at Jakarta State University was led by Vice Rector Prof. Dr. Zainal Rafli along with approximately 20 faculty members representing various departments and programs within the university. After his welcome remarks, Prof. Rafli invited President McRobbie to provide brief remarks about the purpose of IU’s visit. Following this, Dr. Muchlas Suseno, Head of International Relations, gave the delegation a broad overview of the university. To end the visit, President McRobbie fielded questions from attendees, with much of the focus on matters related to USINTEC and potential ways to address ongoing challenges of English language preparation.

President McRobbie answers questions

President McRobbie answers attendees' questions at Jakarta State University

Gadjah Mada University: A new partner for IU

The IU contingency left Singapore around 5:00 am on Friday morning and arrived in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, that afternoon. “Jogja,” as the city is often called, offers an interesting contrast to the chaotic megacity Jakarta. The center of Javanese art and culture, Jogja has many artisan workshops that produce batik, puppets, and other handicrafts, as well as performance venues for plays, traditional Javanese music, and puppet shows. The city is also home to two famous temples: the 9th century Mahayana Buddhist monument Borobudur, and the 9th century Hindu compound Prambanan. Other smaller temples dot the landscape throughout the region. In Jogja today, this rich tradition continues to be celebrated even as the modern urbanity pushes the city forward.

The presence of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Jogja provides students access to one of the best educational institutions in Indonesia. Founded in 1949, it is the oldest and largest state university in Indonesia with more than 55,000 students.

Visit with University of Gadjah Mada

President McRobbie discusses the partnership with outgoing rector Prof. Sudjarwadi and incoming rector Prof. Dr. Pratikno

On Friday afternoon, President McRobbie met with Professor Ir. Sudjarwadi, the outgoing rector of UGM, and Professor Dr. Pratikno, the incoming rector of UGM, to sign an MOU establishing ties between our two universities. Before the signing of the agreement, Rio Rinni Diah Moehkardi, Director of the Office of International Affairs at UGM, and other faculty members engaged President McRobbie and Vice President David Zaret in a discussion about potential areas of collaboration, including the possibility of future short-term programs for students to study pluralism in Indonesia and Indonesian culture and language.

President McRobbie signs MOU

President McRobbie and Prof. Sudjarwadi sign the MOU

MOU Signing with National University of Singapore

Thursday marked the beginning of a new partnership between IU and National University of Singapore (NUS), the largest university in Singapore and one of the most prestigious universities in Asia.

President McRobbie with Bernard Yeung, Dean of the NUS Business School

President McRobbie with Bernard Yeung, Dean of the NUS Business School

That morning, President McRobbie met withBernard Young, Dean and Stephen Riady Distinguished Professor at the NSU Business School, to sign an MOU establishing a partnership between between the IUPUI Center on Philanthropy and the NSU Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (ACSEP). The Center on Philanthropy, considered to be one of the world’s leading programs on the subject, has been working toward the agreement with ACSEP for a couple of years. Together with the NSU Business School’s renowned reputation, the partnership will undoubtedly flourish. In attendance for the signing ceremony were Audrey Chia, ACSEP co-director, and Lim Yue Wan, director of International Relations.

In the afternoon, NUS President Tan Chor Chuan extended a warm welcome to McRobbie and the contingent. After some discussion about potential areas for collaboration and the respective strengths of our universities, the two presidents signed a general MOU establishing ties between our institutions. The visit concluded with a short tour of the impressive NUS campus, including the new Yale-NUS College that is currently under construction.

President McRobbie with NUS President Tan Chor Chuan

President McRobbie with NUS President Tan Chor Chuan, signing general MOU to establish ties between IU and NUS



Impressive last day in Thailand, onto Singapore

Visit with Chulalongkorn University

Tuesday, our final day in Bangkok, began with meeting at Chulalongkorn University (Chula), a partner with IU going back to 1965. In the 1990s, Dr. Vorasak Pienchob, a former dean of Chula’s School of Physical Education, set up an exchange to help faculty members come to IU for one semester. From 1996 to 2008, seventeen faculty members from the then-renamed School of Sports Science were hosted by IU’s School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER).

Chulalongkorn University

Executive Director Shawn Reynolds, President Piron Kamolratanakul, Vice President M.R. Kalaya Tingsabadh, President Michael McRobbie, First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie, and Vice President David Zaret

President McRobbie and Vice President Zaret met Drs. Piron Kamolratanakul, President, and M.R. Kalaya Tingsabadh, Vice President. While the purpose of the visit was to reaffirm IU’s longstanding partnership with Chula, they also had the opportunity to talk about our institutions’ respective strengths in area studies and begin to explore possible collaborations.

Hosted by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Back in December 2010, IU conferred an honorary degree to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand. She was recognized for her efforts to expand and improve public education all across Thailand, especially in remote and rural areas. For decades, IU has had a close relationship with Thailand on many endeavors – helping to establish leading universities, contributing to the development of the K-12 educational system, supporting the growth of Thailand’s modern health and dental care, and offering guidance as it developed governmental policies. Many of these advances would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Thai royal family, particularly Princess Sirindhorn.

Her Royal Highness graciously extended an invitation to President McRobbie and the other members of the IU contingency for a meeting at her palace in Bangkok. The informal gathering gave President McRobbie a chance to talk to the Princess about the issues facing Thailand today and educational initiatives she is pursing in different regions of the country.

Visit with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

On Wednesday morning, the IU contingent departed Bangkok and arrived in Singapore shortly after the lunch hour.

Our first stop in the city was a brief visit to Nanyang Technological University to learn more about the university and explore possible general connections. After a meeting with Er Meng Hwa, Vice President for International Affairs, we had the pleasure to meet Bertil Andersson, President of NTU, along with other members of the faculty. Interestingly, Kian-Lam Toh, the Director of the Office of International Affairs, is a 1997 graduate of IU’s School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.

Reception with IU Alumni in Singapore 

Following the NTU visit, President McRobbie and the IU contingent joined Eric de Haan, Director of International Alumni Relations, and around 80 alumni who reside in Singapore for a special alumni reception. Alumni Eric Teo and Audrey Chang have provided superb leadership of the local chapter and certainly provided a positive experience for all the attendees at the reception.

More than 100 IU alumni in Thailand attend reception

Distinguished alumni

Distinguished IU alumni with President McRobbie and wife Laurie

On Monday evening, more than 100 alumni of Indiana University from across Thailand joined President McRobbie for a reception at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel. The event, coordinated by Peter Boonjarern and Voralak Snidwongse with assistance from the IU Alumni Association, brought together a diverse range of alumni, from the recently graduated 20-somethings to the most distinguished leaders in Thai education, business, and government.

Before the reception officially started, President McRobbie met with a small group of esteemed alumni, including Dr. Vichai Tunsiri, former Deputy Minister of Education; Dr. Juree N. Vichit Vadakan, chairperson of the Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society at NIDA; Prayoon Tosanguan, acting association dean of Panyapiwat Institute of Management; and Prachan “Sean” Boonpracong, international advisor to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. President McRobbie shared many of IU’s exciting international endeavors and requested the assistance of the alumni to serve as ambassadors in order to attract more Thai students to IU, as well as advocate in positive ways for increased study abroad and internship opportunities for IU students in Indonesia.

IU alumnus Peter Boonjarern

IU alumnus Peter Boonjarern

Following this introductory session, Peter Boonjarern welcomed all of the attendees  and thanked them for their sustained interest over the years to maintain relationships with Indiana University. David Zaret, IU Vice President for International Affairs, then introduced Dr. Danai Tonketmonghon, O.D., a graduate of IU’s School of Optometry and currently a faculty member at Ramkhamhaeng University. In his moving remarks, Dr. Denai recounted his warm experience with faculty members at the IU School of Optometry and the profound influence that they had on the development of optometry as a legitimate, recognized area of study in Tailand.

To conclude the ceremony, President McRobbie highlighted some of IU’s accomplishments over the past year and called for an increased role for alumni as advocates and promoters of Indiana University within Thailand.

After his remarks, President McRobbie spoke one-on-one with many alumni, including the distinguished couple Dr. Vorasak Pienchob, former IUAA-Thailand president and former dean of Chulalongkorn University Department of Health Physical Education Department, and Sucharit Pienchod, Ed.D., a performer of classical dance with Her Royal Highness and instructor of dance. The children of the Pienchob’s also graduated from Indiana University.

The Pienchob family and others pose with President McRobbie and wife Laurie

The Pienchob family and other alumni pose with President McRobbie and wife Laurie

IU and Thailand: Historic ties, new opportunities

Herman B Wells and Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Pin Malakul of Thailand

Herman B Wells and Mr. and Mrs. M. L. Pin Malakul of Thailand

Our first day in Bangkok provided important moments of reflection on IU’s long-standing ties to Thailand, stretching back to 1948 when IU President and Chancellor Herman B Wells met with H E Mom Luang Pin Malakul, the Permanent Under Secretary for Education in the Ministry of Education, in Bloomington. The two conversed about higher education and other development matters in Thailand, a topic to which President McRobbie returned in his address today at The National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).

Today’s visit by President McRobbie is particularly special because of IU’s role in the establishment of NIDA in 1966. In the early 1960s, Thai officials began to conceptualize a new curriculum in developmental administration that would prepare graduates to respond to the social and political context of national development needs. To support the creation of this new institute, the Ford Foundation awarded a multi-year technical assistance grant to the Midwest Universities Consortium for International Activities, of which IU was one of the five founding member universities. Because IU had worked with NIDA’s predecessor, the Institute of Public Administration at Thammasat University in Bangkok, it was chosen as the lead institution. Over the next decade, with funding support from the Ford Foundation, twenty five staff members completed advanced degrees at IU and other U.S. universities.

NIDA welcomes President McRobbie

NIDA extends welcome to President McRobbie

The continued presence of IU in Thailand was apparent at today’s talk by President McRobbie: Many of the educational leaders from NIDA and other Thai institutions in attendance today were IU alumni.

President McRobbie began his address on the “Challenges of Higher Education Administration in the Next Decade” by first reflecting on the long-standing relationship between Indiana University and Thai institutions, starting with IU’s earliest involvement in the inception of the  Institute of Public Administration at Thammasat University in 1955, a project sponsored by the Agency for International Development through the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration. In the years since, he emphasized, “IU’s partnership with Thai universities has yielded a generation of senior-level Thai administrators, including a number of college presidents, who have received advanced training at Indiana University. It has led to stronger teacher education and public administration programs within Thailand.”

While Indiana University has been engaged internationally for decades, President McRobbie underscored the broader challenges for American higher education within today’s international economy. “Within this global context,” he posited, “the world’s colleges and universities must share the world’s burden in addressing the most important global issues of our time, such as trade, energy, information technology, access to water resources, and population movement.”

President Michael McRobbie talks at NIDA in Bangkok

President Michael McRobbie addresses educational leaders at NIDA

To illustrate IU’s approach in this new global context, President McRobbie described each of the five key components of IU’s international plan:

  • Encouraging our students to study abroad and creating opportunities for them to do so—study abroad is a critical component of any student’s education;
  • Recruiting highly-qualified international students to Indiana University;
  • Promoting and supporting global connections for faculty research;
  • Developing global bilateral partnerships with peer and complementary teaching and research institutions; and
  • Pursuing international outreach and service in the form of institution-building.

In particular, he emphasized the importance of the latter for IU. Although the university has demonstrated successes around the world, he reminded attendees that such endeavors require “a realistic understanding of strengths and our ability to deliver,” as well as careful planning to ensure that projects are suited to our interests and expertise.

He concluded with brief comments about some of the new initiatives that IU is pursuing, the result of a study that examined the changing needs of students and faculty in today’s increasingly globalized world:

  • The development of a School of International Studies to build on IU’s expertise in areas studies and foreign languages
  • The establishment of a School of Philanthropy, based on IU’s internationally acclaimed Center on Philanthropy
  • The establishment of Schools of Public Health on IU’s Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses that reflect their respective academic strengths on health issues
  • The creation of an Office of Online Education to oversee the development and coordination of online education at IU
Sombat Thamrongthanyawong

Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, President of NIDA

Following his talk, President McRobbie presented NIDA President Dr. Sombat Thamrongthanyawong with the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion, the higher honor that a president of Indiana University can bestow on a person external to the university. Dr. Sombat, the first graduate in the doctoral program in Public Administration at NIDA, began his teaching career at NIDA in 1989 and rapidly ascended to the rank of professorship as a result of his outstanding research. He has also been recognized in Thai society for his service on a number of important boards and organizations. He has served as a member of the National Housing Authority, the Thai Maritime Navigation Company, and the Forest Industry Organization. He currently serves as the chair of the Secondary Mortgage Coprporation and as a member of the National Legislative Assembly of Thailand. As a junior student at Kasetsart University, he received a medal for academic excellence from His Majesty the King. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in science from Kasetsart and was named the university’s “Alumnus of the Year” in 2005. In 2008, he was named “Alumnus of the Year” by NIDA.

Tags: , , ,

IU starts 11-day tour across Southeast Asia

President McRobbie, accompanied by wife Laurie and Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret, is visiting Southeast Asia as part of an 11-day, four-country trip to strengthen IU’s connections with leading universities, meet with political leaders, and renew ties with IU alumni.

Today marks the start of the trip in Bangkok, Thailand, with President McRobbie giving an address at the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA). His address will focus on IU’s tradition of institution building and the challenges higher education administrators will face in the next decade.

Following his visit to NIDA, President McRobbie will greet more than 100 IU alumni at an evening reception coordinated by alumni Peter Boonjarern and Voralak Snidwongse. The reception will serve as a celebratory kick-off for a new alumni chapter.