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Workshop furthers U.S.-Indonesia academic ties

Nik Nikolov (third from right), assistant professor of architecture, joins a small group discussion at the USIPP Consortium workshop in Indonesia.

Three Lehigh professors met with peers last week in Indonesia to develop new research partnerships and explore potential areas of collaboration. The workshop, held June 16-18, was the first major activity planned by the USIPP (US-Indonesia Partnership Program) Consortium, a binational group of 12 colleges and universities committed to advancing U.S.-Indonesia academic collaboration.

Representing Lehigh were Tara Troy, assistant professor of water resources engineering, and James Ricles, professor of structural engineering, both in the department of civil and environmental engineering; and Nik Nikolov, assistant professor of architecture in the department of art, architecture and design. They joined 15 other professors from five U.S. institutions, plus more than 30 from Indonesian schools.

“This workshop was faculty-driven,” says Mohamed S. El-Aasser, vice president and associate provost for international affairs, who convened the gathering. “The only way to link these 12 universities and sustain those relationships is to get faculty involved in joint research and creative work. This is a crossroads for USIPP.”

Nearly 60 professors met at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and they focused on two areas that affect both countries: sustainable environment and resilient community. Each area was divided into several narrower fields. Sustainable environment included eco-art; marine biology and biodiversity; energy and environment; and food, water and health. Resilient community included natural disaster risk reduction and management, cross-cultural and international relations, and democracy and religious pluralism.

The faculty members discussed potential research topics for joint collaboration and new programs, and developed follow-up plans as outlined in six concept papers, one for each sub-theme. For example, Troy’s group—Water, Food and Health—plans to address issues surrounding water scarcity to improve the lives of vulnerable populations in both countries.

Launched in May 2013, USIPP includes six Indonesian and six U.S. higher education institutions. Airlangga University, Bandung Institute of Technology, Bogor Agricultural Institute, Gadjah Mada University, Institute of the Arts-Yogyakarta and the University of Indonesia are in Indonesia. Lehigh, Chatham University, Miami Dade College, Northern Illinois University, the University of Michigan and the University of Washington are in the U.S.

USIPP is a direct outcome of a two-year grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) in the U.S. Department of State, which funded USIPP while it was administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE) from 2010-2012. The purpose of the original program was to increase U.S. study abroad opportunities in Indonesia and to promote long-term partnerships between U.S. and Indonesian higher education institutions.

Using ECA seed grants, the 12 institutions developed new study abroad programs that took 37 American students and half a dozen American faculty members to Indonesia. The 12 institutions developed working relationships with one another, and committed to formalizing and expanding their joint activities as a consortium after the conclusion of the initial program.

U.S.-Indonesia academic relations have been on the rise since Presidents Obama and Yudhoyono announced the Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries in 2010, and included a working group specifically focused on education.

While existing initiatives such as the Fulbright program remain cornerstones of the bilateral relationship, USIPP demonstrates a commitment from the higher education sector in both countries to complement government initiatives with private efforts. Lehigh has been a leader in this area since the beginning, and is a binational secretariat of the consortium with Gadjah Mada University.

“Lehigh University and Gadjah Mada University’s dedication and work have created sustainable partnerships that will build lasting ties between higher education institutions and the people of our two nations, thereby contributing to our collective economic prosperity and national security,” said Meghann Curtis, ECA’s deputy assistant secretary for academic programs.

“I am so pleased that our study abroad capacity building grant provided the seed for these institutional bonds.”

Story by Emily Groff

Posted on Tuesday, July 01, 2014

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