NIU educators forge global relationships in Indonesia

Logo of the Institute of International Education: Opening Minds to the WorldSeveral NIU faculty members are among educators from the United States currently participating in a workshop for U.S. and Indonesian educators and administrators as part of the U.S.-Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP).

The workshop, which began Monday and ends today, is being held at Gadjah Mada University to develop new research partnerships, explore potential areas of collaboration and initiate joint proposals in the areas of sustainable environment and resilient community.

Tomoyuki Shibata, an assistant professor at the Public Health Program of the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences, serves on the workshop coordinating committee. He joins Datu Buyung Agusdinata, assistant professor, Industrial & Systems Engineering; Melissa Lenczewski, director of Environmental Studies and Department of Geology; and Jim Wilson, assistant professor, Department of Geography, as the NIU faculty delegation on this important international initiative that is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“NIU is committed to establishing long lasting relationships within the USIPP Consortium,” said Lesley Rigg, vice president for research and innovation partnerships at NIU.

“The faculty who are currently in Indonesia represent key areas of research interest both here and in Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on environmental studies, within both physical and social systems,” Rigg added. “NIU hopes that the current workshop will lead to collaborations resulting in research projects focused on ways we can create a sustainable environment through innovative partnerships and international cooperation.”

Lesley Rigg and Ray Alden
Lesley Rigg and Ray Alden

Launched in May 2013, the USIPP Consortium includes six Indonesian and six U.S. higher education institutions, which include Airlangga University, Bandung Institute of Technology, Bogor Agricultural Institute, Gadjah Mada University, Institute of the Arts-Jogjakarta and University of Indonesia in addition to the following from the United States: Chatham University, Lehigh University, Miami Dade College, NIU, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington.

NIU has been front and center in the push by the U.S. and Indonesian governments, announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2010, to strengthen higher education in Indonesia through educational exchanges and university partnerships. The comprehensive partnership has included a working group specifically focused on education.

While existing initiatives such as the Fulbright program remain cornerstones of the bilateral relationship, the USIPP Consortium demonstrates a strong commitment from the higher education sector in both countries to complement government initiatives with private efforts.

“This international research initiative is of strategic importance to advancing Global NIU,” said Ray Alden, vice president for International Affairs at NIU. “The NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies has a long history of successful collaborations with various countries in Southeast Asia.”

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

Top: Tomoyuki Shibata and Datu Buyung Agusdinata. Bottom: Melissa Lenczewski and Jim Wilson.
Top: Tomoyuki Shibata and Datu Buyung Agusdinata.
Bottom: Melissa Lenczewski and Jim Wilson.

With the support of seed grants from the ECA funding, the 12 institutions developed new study abroad programs through which they brought 37 American students to Indonesia along with more than a half-dozen American faculty members.

More importantly, the 12 institutions developed solid working relationships with one another, and ultimately committed to formalizing and expanding their joint activities as a consortium after the conclusion of the initial program.

With the conviction that faculty members are essential for driving research collaboration, the planning committee identified sub-themes related to sustainable environment and resilient community that are of interest to the faculty involved in the workshop.

Sub-themes in the sustainable environment area include eco art, marine biology and biodiversity and adaptive urbanism.

Sub-themes in the resilient community area include natural disaster risk reduction and management, cross-cultural studies/international relations and democracy and religious pluralism. Faculty participants will discuss potential research proposals and new programs face to face, and are expected to emerge from the two-and-a-half day workshop with concrete outlines for new concept papers.

“We feel that it is important for NIU to continue its leadership in this key global region by participating in the USIPP initiative to develop joint research programs with collaborating US and Indonesian universities,” Alden said. “Indonesia is a particularly significant partner, since it is the fourth largest democracy in the world, and its government is committed to building its higher education system to advance the country’s economic and social development.”

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