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Increasing International Visibility: Asian Connections

January 15, 2007

As a leading global research university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison places great importance on developing partnerships and connections with governments, universities, scholars and alumni around the world.
Well before the term “Asian Century” was coined predicting Asia’s dominance in the 21st century, the campus recognized the continent’s growing political, economic and cultural significance. UW-Madison has a 45-year history of excellence in teaching Asian studies. Over the last year, several new initiatives have underscored the University’s commitment to research and teaching involving Pacific Rim countries.

In December, the Kingdom of Thailand hosted a gathering at the embassy in Washington D.C. of UW-Madison alumni and students in International Studies’ Washington, D.C. Semester in International Affairs. Ambassador Virasakdi Futrakul, who had visited the campus a few months earlier, welcomed guests and spoke of the ties of friendship between the University and Thailand over nearly a century.

In November, the dean of International Studies, Gilles Bousquet, was part of a University delegation that traveled to Asia. In South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, Bousquet deepened connections with prominent alumni and met with UW-Madison students on year-long study-abroad programs in Japan. “I was very impressed by the students’ dedication to Japanese studies and the way they have adjusted to cultural change and Tokyo life,” Bousquet says. At Japan’s Keio and Sophia Universities and Taiwan National University and National Taiwan Norman University, Bousquet explored strengthening collaborations in language and area studies with university officials. This spring, Bousquet will return to Asia, accompanying UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley to China and South Korea.

UW-Madison is especially proud of a new Korean Studies Initiative being led by the Center for East Asian Studies. Enrollments in Korean language and area studies courses at UW-Madison are rapidly rising along with interest in economic trends and international security issues. The goal is to train a new generation of graduates across all disciplines combining linguistic and cultural competence with both historical and contemporary knowledge about Korea. UW-Madison has one of the largest numbers of Korean students of any university in the U.S. – about 700. In addition, a new generation of Korean-American students is seeking more information about their cultural heritage. For more information on the initiative, click here. For news about a nuclear security in northeast Asia symposium held last October, click here.

Last spring, two federal grants through the National Science Foundation coupled with matching institutional funds from International Studies and other campus units, paved the way for innovative graduate study and research in global sustainability, development and the environment. Through the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT) program, a College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) project is targeting biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the eastern Himalayas of southwest China, site of a long-term collaboration between UW-Madison and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

IGERT fellows will travel to southwest China for summer training, language study and field work. Back in Madison, they will tackle actual biodiversity and development issues in interdisciplinary seminars focused on the region. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has committed $1 million of its own to the collaboration, will send students and scientists to Madison to participate, and it will use the results to enhance conservation and improve economic conditions for people who live in the region. For more on the program, click here.

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