Asia Trip Highlights Alumni Connections and Scholarly Ties
By Rey Banks
President Alan Merten's three-week trip to Asia last fall was a whirlwind of activity, events, conferences, and meetings that coursed through six major cities in China, Korea, and Taiwan. As a result of this trip, as well as a host of other administration and faculty initiatives, Mason is experiencing a buzz of international activity.
During the trip, Merten met with officials from a number of universities, where he was briefed on higher education issues. His schedule also included many other events, such as talks with U.S. government officials about international student exchange issues and meetings with companies, friends, and Mason alumni.
In Korea, Merten met with a group of reporters eager to learn about such hot topics as Mason's undergraduate admission policies that pertain to high school rankings and test scores, as well as how the university admits students. Merten explained to the reporters that Mason is "committed to keeping the door open to international students and faculty and to looking for new ways to increase international exchanges."
While in Korea, Merten dined with former Mason visiting scholars at the Korea Press Club and visited two of Korea's best known corporations: Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology and Hyundai Heavy Industries—cutting-edge facilities that represent Korea's continuing contribution to the global economy. Merten was also treated to two receptions in Korea. One reception was hosted by Elizabeth Hoban, BA International Studies '96 and MS Organizational Learning '00, and Thomas Hoban, BS Administration of Justice '02; the other was hosted by former visiting scholars.
Merten marked a milestone during his visit to Taiwan, when he inaugurated Mason's first international alumni chapter at a dinner in Taipei with 13 Mason graduates. The newly formed Taiwan International Alumni Chapter plans to foster mutual cultural and academic interests between Taiwan and the university. The Taiwan chapter will provide mentoring and information to prospective students and alumni, and it will serve as a model for future international chapters.
Merten made several high-profile speeches in Asia, where audiences were eager to learn more about Mason. One such event was his giving the keynote speech to China's fifth International Forum on Education, where he addressed 700 international educators on the topic of universities as a primary driver of international activity. Merten pointed to China as an example of such activity.
"China is in the midst of a major expansion of college enrollment and an effort to raise standards throughout the nation's higher education system. As part of this effort, Chinese universities have begun to develop new forms of cooperation with foreign universities, moving beyond traditional student and faculty exchanges to joint research and economic development," he said.
President Merten signs an agreement with Nanjing Normal University’s Vice President Wang Jian.
During his trip to expand the university's Far East connections this past October, President Alan Merten met with Mason alumni at a dinner at the Yi Yuan Chinese Restaurant at the Sherwood Hotel in Taipei City, Taiwan. Alumni were treated to an update on news from Mason and shown a video about the university.
The dinner also marked the beginning of the Taiwan International Alumni Chapter (TIAC), the first international chapter of the Alumni Association. Event attendees showed a strong interest in becoming more involved and believed that Merten's visit made the difference.
"Not many presidents of a U.S. university would come all the way to Asia and meet with alumni," says one guest. "We are all very happy and pleased to have met Dr. Merten and established TIAC."
Representatives from the International Alumni Chapter: (Front row from left) Ming-Lee Yeh, PhD Nursing '97; Alison Hao; President Merten; Todger Lu; Yulan Hsin, PhD Public Policy '00; (2nd row from left) Benny Cheng; Nina Ni; PeiChing Ma; Jiunn-liang Chen, MS Information Systems '02; Alice Huang of the Ministry of Education; (Back row from left) BorSien Sun; George Huang; KC Chu