University President Mary Sue Coleman is heading back to China, a trip that reinforces an ongoing effort by University officials to increase the school’s international outreach.
In an interview earlier this week, Coleman said she will embark on her second official trip to China this coming June.
“I’m going to be going to China again next June to solidify the relationship that we have there with several institutions,” Coleman said.
Over the last four years, the University has focused on strengthening its relationship with China. As part of the initiative, Coleman traveled to the country in 2005, created The Task Force on China in 2008, comprised of faculty members interested in building stronger relationships with Chinese institutions.
This summer, Coleman plans to travel to Shanghai Jiao Tong University — where the University has a Joint Institute in Engineering. The relationship was forged between SJTU and the University’s College of Engineering during Coleman’s 2005 visit.
Coleman said she feels SJTU has emerged as the University’s strongest international entity and that collaborations between the two universities have been “extremely robust” because of faculty involvement.
“That was really related in interest from the faculty — really getting something started on both sides and the willingness of both institutions to invest,” she said.
Over the last few years, the University has worked to spread its international presence through the formation of institutes and programs abroad and on campus. Its most recent endeavor was the opening of the University’s Confucius Institute last week.
Coleman said she is “particularly pleased” that the Confucius Institute will be unique in its focus on art and music, compared to the other 60 institutes in the United States that concentrate on language and culture.
Referring to China, Coleman said there’s “a lot of activity going on all over the place.”
The University is exploring the possibility of developing joint projects with Chinese universities that would take place at the North Campus Research Complex, which is scheduled to open officially this spring. University Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest will also travel to China in the near future to look at possible research projects and create technology transfer offices.
In addition to its efforts in China, Coleman said the University has been collaborating in the humanities and social sciences with African universities in Ghana and South Africa, two countries she visited in February 2008.
Coleman also mentioned Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs and a professor of political science, who has led a project in the United Arab Emirates to establish an institute similar to the University’s Institute for Social Research.
Coleman said University faculty members are working in all parts of the world. In fact, upon giving a lecture at Zayed University in Dubai in March 2008, Coleman said she was surprised to find University faculty there too.
“They’re everywhere!” Coleman said. “You can go anywhere in the world, and they all come out of the woodwork.”
At the same time as this growth in the international presence of institutes and faculty, the University is beginning to see a rise in the number of international applicants.
In the interview, Coleman cited an increase in the amount of undergraduate applicants from Asia last year, but didn’t know if the numbers will further increase in the future.
“It’s kind of fascinating to see whether it continues this year,” she said.
Coleman said more and more families across the world are looking to provide the best college education for their children, and with the University’s “internationally high-profile,” parents are interested in sending their kids to Ann Arbor.
“I think it’s kind of nice for the University to have that reputation,” Coleman said. “It’s good the block ‘M’ is known everywhere.”
According to Coleman, international outreach efforts are not only important for creating a diverse student body, but also for helping students attain a well-rounded global perspective.
“I think to be successful in the future we really need to have an awareness of and understanding of the rest of the world,” she said. “The goal is to create great opportunities for students who come to the University of Michigan to emerge as citizens of the world.”