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Lehigh receives Luce grant for Indonesian exchange

Lehigh professor Jack Lule lectures on the Korean War in Washington, D.C.

Lehigh and the University of Michigan have received a three-year, $190,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support an exchange program for undergraduate students in the United States and Indonesia.

In the program, American and Indonesian students live and travel in each other’s countries as a cohort, in an effort to expand the opportunity for communication and deeper understanding.

The Luce Foundation chose to support the exchange program because it blends international travel with a hands-on curriculum that focuses on democracy and religious pluralism and is led by faculty from each of the partner universities.

“Since the 1980s, the Luce Foundation has worked to improve American understanding of Southeast Asia,” says Helena Kolenda, director of the Luce Foundation’s Asia Program. “Indonesia demands our attention for economic, political, cultural and strategic reasons, yet is too often neglected and is little understood in the U.S.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have promised to strengthen relations between the two countries in many ways, including expanded academic exchange and the use of dialogue to advance peace, tolerance and respect for diversity.

Their pledge led the U.S. Department of State to fund the United States Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP), which is facilitated by the Institute for International Education. The USIPP encourages the development of undergraduate student exchange programs to meet the goals of the two presidents.

The exchange between Lehigh and the University of Michigan and universities in Indonesia was one of these programs. The Luce support comes after a successful pilot program in 2011 that involved the two American schools and Universitas Gadjah Mada, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The program expanded in 2012 to include Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta. This summer will be the program’s third year.

Mohamed El-Aasser, Lehigh’s vice president for international affairs, said the Luce grant would help increase the access of American students and faculty members to Indonesia.

“The grant will provide support to undergraduate students for a life-changing opportunity to learn first-hand about Indonesia, an area of great national interest,” said El-Aasser.

The American students travel in Indonesia for two weeks guided by Indonesian students and faculty. They attend lectures, visit cultural and historical sites and live together. The experience is then repeated in the U.S.

Students from the two countries learn about the interactions of faith and politics, how societies cultivate tolerance, and how individuals from diverse religious backgrounds participate in a democratic community.

“One of the distinctive features and chief benefits of this program is the close interaction between students from both countries,” says Allen Hicken, associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan and co-leader of the program. “The opportunity to engage important questions with students from very different backgrounds has a profound effect on those participating.”

Lehigh professors Jack Lule, Rick Matthews and Lloyd Steffen lead the program with Hicken and Kate Wright from Michigan, Professor Rachmat Sriwijaya from Gadjah Mada, and Professor Junaidi from Universitas Indonesia.

With the Luce Foundation support, the summer program will be expanded to add four new universities by 2015, two in the U.S. and two in Indonesia. This will double the number of students participating.

Story by Emily Groff

Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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