NIU is front and center in the current push by the U.S. and Indonesian governments, announced in 2010 by President Barack Obama, to strengthen higher education in Indonesia through educational exchanges and university partnerships.
The Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) and the Division of International Programs have been taking the lead in leveraging NIU’s years of Indonesia scholarship into a meaningful role in the $165 million investment the United States is making in stronger academic ties with the Southeast Asian country.
In addition to participating in a U.S. higher education leadership delegation to Indonesia in 2009 and a U.S. Commerce Department educational trade mission to Indonesia and Vietnam in 2011, NIU currently has memoranda of understanding (MOU) with two Indonesian universities and is working on various educational ventures with them, including a dual-degree program in engineering and a public health research project at Universitas Hasanuddin.
Five more MOUs are in negotiation now.
Since fall 2008, the center has hosted 18 Indonesian exchange scholars and is expecting four more this fall. Every year since 2009, NIU has sent three students to Indonesia in the summer for intensive language training.
Future NIU plans include expanding educational exchange opportunities with partner schools and linking up with U.S. community colleges to recruit Indonesian students who will eventually transfer to NIU.
In mid-August, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Christopher McCord, Associate Provost for International Program Deborah Pierce and center director James T. Collins, who have made several trips to Indonesia together in the past two years, went to Washington, D.C., and New York City to meet with several federal funding agencies involved in the U.S.-Indonesia educational partnership.
In Washington, D.C., the NIU team reviewed the university’s long-standing involvement in Indonesia and Southeast Asia and discussed plans for an upcoming U.S.-Indonesia summit on educational exchange with officials from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. State Department. They also met with the non-profit United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO), and attended Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities meetings on U.S. Agency for International Development funding for education programs in Indonesia.
While in D.C., Pierce said the team was honored to be invited to the Indonesian Ambassador’s residence Aug. 17, Indonesian Independence Day, for private discussions with Ambassador Dino Patti Jalal (who visited NIU in July 2010 shortly after his arrival in the United States), and Haryo Winarso, the embassy’s new educational attaché.
“It was truly amazing to visit our program officers at the departments of Education and State and find them so well-informed and enthusiastic about the details of our programs and plans here at NIU,” Collins said. “Our lengthy discussions with Pak Dino and Pak Haryo about Indonesian-American bilateral student exchange, joint research and partner university MOUs strengthened our resolve to re-commit NIU’s energy and resources to the study of Indonesia.”
The week after going to D.C., McCord, Pierce, and Collins went to New York to meet with officials of the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Henry R. Luce Foundation about those organizations’ plans in Indonesia. During a meeting with IIE President Allan Goodman, and Mary Kirk, vice president for student exchanges, the NIU team was gratified to learn that the IIE considers NIU to be the U.S. university that has accomplished the most in Indonesia over recent years.
“Dr. Goodman’s support and encouragement signals that we’re on the right track in building our partnerships in Indonesia,” McCord said.
by Liz Denius