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Creating new opportunities for UMD in East Asia

Dear University of Maryland community:

Just back from a 10-day visit to universities, businesses, and government organizations in Seoul and Beijing as part of Governor Hogan's trade mission, I would like to share some outcomes and personal impressions—beyond the space limitations of my daily postings on Twitter.

These visits—my second in nearly five years—will help create new opportunities for faculty, students, and staff. It will also deepen the East Asia footprint for the State and the University. 

The message of the Governor's trade mission to one of the world's most dynamic economic regions is that "Maryland is open for business." (He also traveled to Tokyo, but I could not go there for scheduling reasons.) The State's flagship university and UM-Baltimore were represented because world-class education, research, and innovation help drive trade, business development, and job creation in a globalized economy characterized by intense "collab-tition" (collaboration AND competition). 

South Korea boasts the fastest and most extensive internet connectivity in the world, drawing high-tech talent and venture capital that nurture a start-up culture. Its strategy for higher education and economic development—"convergence and integration" -- is a good fit for UMD. "Convergence" stresses a multi-disciplinary approach to solving global challenges. "Integration" connects that research with industry to spur economic vitality.

Our distinguished alumnus Dr. Jeong Kim, namesake of our A. J. Clark School of Engineering building, introduced us to important companies, including the country's largest internet search firm. We discussed with the firm opportunities for UMD student internships and joint innovation activities in College Park. 

At Yonsei University and Hanyang University, we agreed to establish a "global entrepreneurship semester" and "global classrooms" (connected by internet and real-time video conferencing) for our respective students—educational initiatives that UMD started after we visited Israeli universities a couple of years ago. 

The UMD alumni group in Seoul is the largest outside the U.S., over 500 strong. Our PhD alumni now serve on the faculties of 12 Korean universities, while other alumni hold leadership positions in Korean companies, large and medium-sized. 

Governor and Mrs. Hogan attended a large and enthusiastic alumni reception. As the first Korean-American First Lady of any U.S. state, she was received everywhere—in the words of the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea—as a "media rock star." Since she is a native daughter, the Governor described himself as "the son-in-law of Korea" to the delight of local audiences. Hanyang University conferred on the Governor an honorary doctorate. 

The President of South Korea is due in Washington, D.C. later this month. I hope this will be a further opportunity to strengthen Maryland-South Korea trade and academic exchanges.

In Beijing, two of our key meetings involved the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the foremost scientific institution in China, and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), which sets strategic priorities and provides funding for research and innovation. 

The president of CAS and I signed an agreement that will open doors for UMD faculty to conduct research with colleagues in CAS' nationwide network of institutions. The Minister of S&T is well-acquainted with UMD, having visited our campus. At MOST, we discussed China's rising investments in, and new strategies for, advancing basic and translational science as well as innovation.

At Beijing Normal University, I visited the Joint Center on Global Change and Earth System Sciences launched about four years ago by BSOS faculty and their BNU counterparts, several of whom were educated at UMD. The work of the Center is high profile, given the recent U.S.-China agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

Shortly before our trip to Asia, the United Nations' Secretary-General—a South Korean—visited our campus at the invitation of Dean Robert Orr of our School of Public Policy. Bob, who accompanied us to Asia, previously served in a senior UN position. He is working with the Secretary-General to hold an international implementation conference at UMD next spring, if the UN's proposed global climate accord is signed later this year. We would then welcome to campus many of the scientists and policy-makers we met in Korea and China. 

A major agreement signed with Beijing University of Technology will bring their students to UMD on a non-degree basis for their sophomore and junior years, funded by the Beijing city government. They will spend their freshman and senior years at home. We also signed agreements with two Chinese biotech companies to establish a base of operations in UMD's incubation facilities.

The Governor and I took part in an Under Armour (UA) press conference announcing a new UA store in Beijing. As one of the most innovative and fastest growing U.S. companies, UA has launched a major expansion into China, its top foreign export market. Headed by alumnus Kevin Plank, UA symbolizes the innovative and entrepreneurial ethos of the State and its flagship institution.

At a meeting with the trade delegation, a Vice Premier of China highlighted the country's emphasis on sports as a means for people-to-people friendship. Athletics is the "front porch" of many U.S. universities, the most visible part of the academic house. Someday, perhaps, Terp teams in UA-designed uniforms will be showcased on the global stage, along with our academics and arts.

This Vice Premier will host later this month in Texas a conference of presidents of 20 top Chinese universities and 20 AAU universities, including UMD. The topic is expanding educational and research exchanges. I look forward to continuing the dialogue at this meeting. 

It is a small world. On this trip I bumped into two UMD theater professors teaching in the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts. They previously staged, in College Park and Beijing, an innovative bilingual and bicultural production of a Shakespeare play by UMD and Chinese students. 

I thank the Governor for including UMD representatives in the State's delegation. And I also want to thank the Governor's staff and the many people at UMD (various deans and faculty members; staff in International Affairs, China Affairs, and University Relations) for all their planning and support that made this visit possible and productive. 

Wallace D. Loh
University of Maryland