Our Far East travels
To assist with the changes in time zones for trans-Pacific flights, a stop is sometimes made in Hawaii; instead we chose to stop in Hong Kong (still a long flight from San Francisco). We stayed with our cousin, whose family has lived there for five years. We arrived about five weeks before their return to the States. For information about that segment of our trip, visit Dr. Betty Rider’s site at www.bettyrider.com.
This blog is presented in chronological order so that you can easily follow the course of our trip through the Far East.
The objective of this trip is to enhance relationships with Asian universities to assure success of Vision 2020: The New Gold Standard of University Performance. As we reach our sesquicentennial anniversary (150th) through this Vision, we commit to:
- Student Success – Commit to Excellence;
- Global Relevance - Dynamic and Globally Relevant Programs;
- Distinction - Faculty Success via Clusters of Interdisciplinary Teaching and Research and Staff Success Through Talent Development;
- Impactful Engagement – Build and Sustain Vital Partnerships
Relationships with universities in Asia must relate to these goals in a manner that strategically leverages each institution’s strengths to mutually beneficial outcomes. Thus, the attributes of a relationship must illustrate the relationship is vitally necessary to be established, nurtured and sustained.
Every official meal with university officials is a “banquet,” where the relationship is extended by making observations about the partner university that provides opportunities for synergy.
It is important to point out governmental programs that could support mutual goals and objectives, such as the collaborations of the National Science Foundations. Making observations about similarities between each country’s people and the role that education plays in advancing knowledge to improve the human condition are helpful to relationship enhancement. Of course, conversations about current programs or possible programs should emerge during these conversations.
There is a protocol for seating at the banquets with the most senior host sitting facing the door. The meal is plates of various foods (usually fish, fowl, meat and vegetables), from which one picks up food items to eat or accumulates them on a plate or in a bowl to mix with sauces. There is a protocol for who is served first as well — the senior guest.
The senior guest and party are toasted by the host first and then by each member of the host party over the course of the meal. The honored guest then toasts the party as a whole or each individual depending on their preference. It is especially gratifying to the host if the guest demonstrates prowess with chopsticks (chopstick prowess can be improved by practicing with coffee beans).
Before the event ends, the host may present gifts and the honored guest may reciprocate. Warm handshakes are exchanged and the host sees the guests to their cars as a sign of honoring the guests.
The Great Wall…
…is more than 6,000 kilometers long. It was intended to protect the Qin dynasty emperor. There are segments of the wall that can be visited by tourists and many Chinese vow to visit the Great Wall before they pass on to their next life.
When invasion was suspected or imminent, the wooden ladders from the enemy side to the precipice were burned. These ladders were close enough to each other to produce a fiery domino effect that resulted in all ladders along the entire 6,000-kilometer expanse being burned in about one hour.
The Forbidden City…
…was occupied only by the emperor and official party and they were the only occupants of this double-walled city. So paranoid about a “Coo,” the emperor did not permit the generals into the inner sanctum. In the outer city, leading from the Hall of Preserving Harmony, is a carved single stone ramp weighing some 200 tons (400,000 pounds).
Construction required 15 years and 1 million workers to build 999 buildings containing 9,999 rooms on nearly 9 million square feet with nine gates. You guessed it; the number nine is a lucky number.
While commoners were forbidden from this city, the emperor could go wherever he desired. A commoner who laid eyes on the emperor was put to death.
When the emperor would depart, bells would signal he was turning left and drums would signal he was turning right. When both sounded, he was walking straight. This was the earliest form of the navigation systems we use today, yes?
The Temple of Heaven…
…is the location for the emperor’s biannual prayer to the “gods” for good harvests. There is a single stone, the Earthly Mount, that is in a circular mount, upon which he stood offering the good-harvest prayers.
This Altar of Heaven has three tiers representing man, earth and heaven, and has balustrades in multiples of nine representing the nine layers of heaven. This is all arranged in such a manner that the emperor’s words would be amplified off the Echo Wall so the gods had a better chance of hearing the emperors prayers for a good harvest.
Beijing University of Chemical Technology…
…is directly affiliated with the Ministry of Education and recently received a $100 million grant from the government for innovation efforts. Their primary goal is student success, as they aspire to advance student knowledge, create positive individuals and assure socially responsible Chinese citizens.
While we no longer have significant activity in rubber research, particularly related to tire production, BUCT does. I never knew of the many destructive forces brought to bear on different rubber composites to manufacture high-quality tire products.
We had discussions about our proposed three plus two (3+2) program where their students complete three years at their institution and then come to The University of Akron for two years to finish a bachelor’s degree conferred by BUCT and a master’s degree conferred by The University of Akron. For every five students, there will be a doctoral student mentor and there will be a faculty member supervising the program. We hope to welcome 50 students in autumn 2011 and hope to have a program totaling 100 to 200 students by 2013.
…is the location where all of China was first ruled by one emperor, after which there were 29 additional dynasties over more than 3,100 years. Xi’an is the easterly end of the Silk Road.
Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor, ordered the building of his mausoleum immediately upon his ascension to the throne. This included his Terracotta Army located 40 km to the east of the city. It is unknown how many chambers of Terracotta figures actually exist, but three chambers are now open to the public.
The most popular pit (#1) holds the 6,000 terracotta warriors who would defend the emperor in the second life. This includes horse-drawn chariots and the general of the army. The general was always given orders by the emperor through his “chief of staff” so as to eliminate a hostile takeover. In other words, they were always separated.
The third pit holds the emperor’s headquarters for battle. When he gave orders to his general, he sent a courier to give the directions to the general. When this vault was discovered, the terracotta figures had retained their colors; so, the heads were removed and placed into specialized storage to retain the colors. The Chinese are working on developing materials that will protect the color of the terracotta when exposed to air. Perhaps this is where University of Akron ingenuity steps in with advanced coatings?
The second pit does not have much excavation, as they want the technology developed to preserve the color of the terracotta. Nonetheless, it is known that it includes more than 80 war chariots and 1,300 terracotta warriors. The battle formations of these warriors are much more sophisticated than that found in Pit 1. More than 2,000 swords were unearthed from this pit and they contain a micro-coating of oxide with 2 percent chrome. Interestingly, this technology wasn’t developed until recent times. Obviously they had very sophisticated casting techniques.
It is unfortunate however, that the making of the terracotta warriors resulted in the death and murder of the workers and sometimes their families in order to preserve the secrets of the pits. This is the unfortunate outcome of a superiority complex that is not the basis for peace and harmony that should be the way of the world.
By the way, we enjoyed ourselves even more in Xi’an as two faculty members from our College of Nursing joined us to visit this infamous city. They had previously been having great discussions about collaboration with Henan University — more to come later.
Giant Wild Goose Pagoda…
…is one of 16 pagodas in China and on a clear day offers a spectacular view of the city of Xi’an. This pagoda was built in 652 during the Tang Dynasty and is seven levels tall, having started with five and then, after its collapse, rebuilt with two additional levels. The pagodas were used to store Buddhist relics and writings and to worship Buddha.
In front of the pagoda is a marvelous water feature with thousands of jets of water creating various symmetrical shapes. About every three hours, the visitors are asked to vacate the fountain, as you can walk on walkways across the fountain because the entertainment is about to begin and you could be hurt by the jets of water. We just happened to be at the fountain when this spectacular water show began and almost the entire show was captured on video. It would be spectacular to see at night.
The High-speed train…
…ride was surprisingly smooth as it travels at full throttle, very fast at more than 300 km (200 miles per hour), and was surprisingly smooth. Almost 1 million Chinese ride the more than 6,000 miles of high-speed rail daily. There is the world’s first high-speed magnetic levitation line for commercial use; although we had a lot of luggage, we weren’t classified for commercial transportation.
The most interesting aspect of this part of the trip was the countryside through which the train traveled. We passed innumerable nuclear power plants and companies that manufactured bricks. Along the entire route was agriculture with not a single piece of land left untilled. Chinese were out in these plots laboriously tending to their crops that looked quite healthy, even in the midst of China’s worst drought. Some have referred to the high-speed rail line as China’s next Silk Road.
…was the destination of our high-speed rail ride, the city within which is Henan University. A collaboration of Henan University and The University of Akron created the Chinese Ministry of Education-endorsed Confucius Institute. It is one of seven ancient capitals of China. Because of various wars over time, Kaifeng has been reconstructed many times and it was the most populated city in the world in the 1000s.
The entire city is in the Yellow River flood plain, much like Ohio State University’s stadium (The Shoe). Kaifeng has the world’s oldest extant Jewish community in China. Chinese dumplings are a specialty here and you must learn the special way to hold them with your chopsticks and “slurp” the broth out of them before you eat the dumpling, otherwise you burn your mouth with very-hot broth.
…has throughout its 100-year history, adhered to its motto of “明德新民，止于至善 (“to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence”). It has more than 400,000 alumni and is a comprehensive university that is supported by both the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Government.
The Confucius Institute was dedicated in November 2008 at The University of Akron ( see http://www.henu.edu.cn/en/news/KongZiXueYuanJiePai.html and http://www.uakron.edu/dotAsset/594424.pdf). Chinese week at The University of Akron this year had more than 2,000 participants, with faculty members largely responsible for the event.
Two University of Akron faculty members from the College of Nursing were also visiting Henan University to explore potential collaborations in the area of nursing practice. This discussion could result in exchanges of nursing students between the two universities; additional discussion and exploration is warranted. Given the depth and breadth of Henan University’s academic programs and the fact that it has two hospitals, there are possible collaborations with The University of Akron Health College to be created at the June 15 meeting of the Board of Trustees.
My wife Betty had the opportunity to give a talk at Henan University. Her topic was “The Five Words for Women’s Success.” Her talk was well attended and there were lots of questions, given that women’s rights are not well acknowledged in China. An interesting fact is that of the 14 richest women in the world, seven are Chinese. One is a land development and management magnate in Beijeing. I wonder if one of her investments was a construction site that we noted with 18 tower cranes .
I also had the opportunity to give a talk at Henan and addressed the similarities between their strategic plan and our emerging strategic plan. The talk was titled “The University of the 21st Century” and is posted on this blog. As we might imagine, student success is their number one priority. When asked to define the University of the 21st Century in one simple sentence, it is the university that is “relevant, connected and productive.” I pointed out achieving these three attributes is essential for any university as outcomes that are relevant. A productive university will enhance its value to the people it serves.
Worth mentioning is the Iron Pagoda right behind Henan University. This pagoda was built in 1049. Remarkably, it has withstood six Yellow River floods and 38 earthquakes over its 1,000- year history. It withstood all of this because it was made with structural bricks. Amazingly, almost every brick has a Buddha or other significant character on it, and because the brick looks like iron, it is called the Iron Pagoda.
Mellinium Park (at night)…
…is a “theme park” much like Cedar Point; at night there is a magnificent show with nearly 800 performers highlighting many aspects of Chinese history. The performance is set on a lake across which are walkways and other theatrical mechanisms to give the semblance of “flying.”
Most impressive is the use of lighting to enhance colors, the authentic music and costumes. The story of the Chinese woman who was a general for decades was extraordinarily portrayed and particularly interesting, as neither the army nor the people at that time knew this to be the case.
Mellinium Park (during the day)…
…is even like a theme park, but with no rides. Instead, entertainment of the day was demonstrated in exquisite detail and with a high degree of authenticity.
Particularly entertaining was the young acrobat who could contort her body in many unimaginable ways and the “shadow box” play that is essentially puppets performing while a narrator tells the story the puppets are acting.
It is interesting how visitors are guided throughout the park — can you imagine using the approach at The University of Akron? A young man did a remarkable job of eating fire and blowing fire as if he were a flame-thrower. I bet that hurts but there must be some way he protects his mouth from being irreparably burned.
City University of Zhengzhou (formerly known as the Brenda Institute of Technology)…
…is a relatively new university with 3,000 students. It focuses on developing the work force for the region. It has technical training and offers some associate degrees, in the technical areas one would expect. The city wanted such an institution of higher education and relocated a high school that became the site of the City University of Zhengzhou. I thought this epitomized the definition of a private-public partnership because I thought the city “gave” the land and buildings to the SIAS Group, Inc. that owns and manages SIAS International University. I later learned the SIAS group paid the city for the property; nonetheless, this is a partnership much like we describe in our evolving strategic plan, Vision 2020: The New Gold Standard of University Performance.
In any event, I had the opportunity to participate in this university’s first Homecoming. It was a tremendous exhibition of student talent that followed many speeches by dignitaries. We prepared an eight-minute speech and when I saw what was going on, I decided to shorten it. I picked three paragraphs that I thought worked together, and after the first paragraph I released the next five pages from my grasp, allowing them to fly across the stage in the wind. The crowd gasped, at which point I told them I was shortening my address, to which there was resounding applause. I then read a paragraph, let loose another five pages, and read the final paragraph. I still had three pages left and I could only hope I was not discarding any of the pages containing the final paragraph.
Lula Washington, a well-known choreographer later stated that my pages “danced across the stage” in honor of the students. The evening ended with an outstanding fireworks display at about 10 p.m., after which there was another 50-minute drive to Xinzheng. Needless to say, we were exhausted that night, having driven that afternoon from Kaifeng (a two-hour cross-country drive).
SIAS International University…
…is a university where the best of the East meets the best of the West to produce culturally competent and literate citizens for the 21st century. It is the only privately owned university in China, while it is affiliated with Zhengzhou University.
I have always wondered what it would be like to start a university from scratch. Shawn Chen, its chief executive officer, had exactly that opportunity and it is beautiful and marvelous in concept. Sections of the campus give the effect of being in Italy, Europe, the United States and China, to name a few. This helps every international student feel comfortable in this comprehensive university environment.
We saw their second homecoming parade, including many student performances along the parade route. We were treated to marvelous food dishes of many varieties over the several days we were at SIAS.
When I met with the chief executive officer, and typically when I met with university presidents, one sat in a very large leather chair, set in either a semicircle or circle. Usually there was a video introducing the university followed by an official welcome and statement of appreciation for cooperation and a request for increased collaboration. Thereafter, I had the opportunity to make an official statement, ratify the importance of our collaboration, and respond to the request for increased collaboration. After those formalities, the conversations became more relaxed and less “official.” This formal interaction and development of relationships is very important to the Asian cultures.
We will work with SIAS International University to:
1. Provide mid-level administrators experience working at a Western university;
2. Secure University of Akron students to attend SIAS International University — this will probably work best if students can visit in pairs; and
3. Provide SIAS students the opportunity to study at The University of Akron. Of course, logistics need to be worked out, as would course equivalencies, etc. The largest barrier to exchange is the time lost taking coursework at the home institution, which is why developing faculty-determined articulation agreements is likely the way to increase the numbers of students studying abroad during a one- or two-semester immersion experience.
I had the honor of providing the commencement address. There were more than 5,000 graduates (pictured above). I was surprised how few parents and relatives were in attendance and learned that family members celebrate acceptance into and moving into the university, as that is the “big” achievement. The expectation is that with acceptance to university, there should be no difficulty completing the bachelor’s degree.
We prepared a 10 to 12-minute address. As the address was translated into Chinese in the program, I probably should have reduced the actual talk to three minutes. An interesting thing happens when addressing these students — there was a lot of “background” as they explained to each other in Chinese what was being said by the English-speaking presenter.
…is sustained by the kimchee that is served at every meal. It is cabbage that is “pickled” with a wide variety of tastes, typically spicy. Our understanding is that once made, it becomes better with age. Meals were served in many more and smaller helpings of a wide variety of meats and vegetables. It was a bit difficult to eat squid and octopus, particularly imagining the level of digestibility of those particular foods. Interesting culinary experiences, nonetheless.
We met with alumni who are at executive-level positions at Samsung and LG, or was that LG and Samsung. I feel like I must give them equal treatment as they are friendly competitors. Our alumni are doing some remarkable things at these two companies. They are involved in creating new methods of colorizing, bonding and fabricating different types of polymers. They are involved in developing next-generation lithium ion batteries (LG) so electric cars will be able to travel more than about 50 miles on a single charge. We drove the Chevy Volt — how about that for the name of an electric car — and it does have the acceleration one would expect from a car. They are selling so well that production is being doubled.
We had two banquets (dinners) with alumni. They were interested in how the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering is doing and were curious about adaptations or adjustment in programs to respond to changes in the industry. We discussed those adjustments (see Taiwan comments) and they were pleased to learn of our changing strategies. They were particularly interested in interdisciplinary activities that would link to biomedical and biomolecular engineering, business administration, licensing and commercialization, and new company formation. They also wanted to know how they can help assure more Korean students attend The University of Akron. We pledged to be in more constant contact to facilitate their recruiting students to Akron.
…is a private Christian university founded in 1885 — origins that are similar to The University of Akron’s own start as Buchtel College through its affiliation with the Universalist Church. At Yonsei, they have a program that provides scholarships to UA students to be immersed in the Korean culture for a semester while being an English-speaking “buddy” with one of their students. This is what they call their Global Village concept because all of these students reside in one residence hall.
We met with three students who will arrive at The University of Akron in the autumn for a semester of study. They were excited, although anxious, about their first trip out of the country. They were anxious about making friends, fitting in and getting from the airport to the University. I e-mailed the questions to my UA colleagues and will forward the answers to their questions to their director of international studies to distribute to those students. Surprisingly, a Yonsei University student who had the day before returned from a semester at The University of Akron was with this group. She absolutely “loved” her experience and indicated she would recommend it for every Yonsei student. Thank you University of Akron colleagues for making our international students feel welcome and giving them a wonderful in and out of the classroom experience.
…is visited by a large number of Chinese, which is driving the price of everything higher. We stayed at a Howard International Civil Service Hotel that had great rooms with good air conditioning.
I had the chance to reconnect with my first doctoral graduate from Texas A&M University. He is now a professor at Taiwan Normal University, where he has been department chair, dean and vice president for student affairs. He is now teaching and conducting research.
We dined at the World Trade Center of Taipei — at one point in time the tallest building in the world. On Saturday and Sunday there is a flower market and a Jade market, both located underneath a freeway. On weekends, the cars typically parked here have to move so these markets can set up and sell their goods. We had a wonderful vegetarian luncheon in a restaurant that was on the third floor. It seems like the restaurants the natives visit in these Asian countries are on the second floor or higher; and not at street-level, which is readily visible to visitors.
We had wonderful interactions with alumni who formed the first international alumni association last autumn (more than 100 members). I had the opportunity to interact with them about the University and promised, “We’ll be Back” to continue to support them as they represent The University of Akron in Asia. We had productive discussions about their companies serving as co-op or internship or short-term employment opportunities, particularly to help educate their younger employees about the culture of doing business in Asia.
When asked what are we doing to keep the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering number one in the world, I shared our many initiatives. I told them of our focus on biomaterials as well as energy capture and storage, in addition to carbon sequestration. I pointed out that the Austen Bioinnovation Institute will also provide opportunities for collaboration, including opportunities that might emerge from bio-devices, wound-healing and materials for orthopedics.
…this was a great trip for The University of Akron. Reconnections were made with distinguished alumni. Future opportunities were created for students to intern, co-op or to possibly be employed. Faculty exchanges are possible as well. There is the tremendous energy of our alumni in Asia and we should find ways to use their energies and interests. Certainly, we should visit them more often. Perhaps we can have a reunion of them in the U.S.
It is clear to me we need an individual at the University focused on our Asian agenda.
Recruitment of international students to our programs must be a significant component of our global strategy. It must be a significant component of our enrollment strategy. I think we should plan to have at least 1,000 Asian students studying on our campus by 2020 at the latest. This means we must assure we have a diverse faculty and staff on our campus. We must plan for serving this community via our student engagement and success strategies. We must aspire to assure every student has a remarkable experience at The University of Akron.
….the next international excursion.
Best wishes and warmest regards,
Address at Henan University in Kaifang
On May 26, I had the honor of addressing students, faculty, deans and administrators at Henan University in Kaifang, China.
Henan University is our Confucius Institute partner, but our relationship with Henan predates the start of the institute on our campus. We have exchanged faculty and students with Henan for 12 years. Today, for instance, three of our students study full time at Henan.
The title of my address was “The 21st Century University.” The transcript follows.
Greetings from the United States of America and The University of Akron! It is my honor to be with you today and I want to thank Henan University and Vice-President Song for this opportunity.
Thank you for the hospitality you have shown to my wife and me while we have visited your beautiful and historical campus and city of Kaifang. I have heard and now I have come to know that the hospitality and graciousness of the Chinese is unparalleled.
I also want to take a moment to thank Henan University and especially Secretary Guan, Vice President Song, Vice President Liu, Director Ma, and Dean Li for choosing The University of Akron to partner with in establishing the prestigious Confucius Institute.
Our two universities have had a fruitful twelve year history that has increased opportunities for student and faculty exchanges, enhanced exploration of shared degree programs, and enabled the opportunity for both of us to increase the globalization of our curriculum and campuses.
Since the founding of the Confucius Institute in November 2008, UA has hosted two extremely successful China Weeks – with over 2,000 students, faculty and staff and community members participating in Chinese language, culture, music, food, art demonstrations, lectures and presentation of scholarly work about China.
Last year was especially exciting because several of our keynote addresses were connected via videoconferencing with about 350 Henan students per keynote. This was especially impressive because your students joined our students at 6 a.m. Kaifang time.
Our universities now have the “Akron to Kaifang Forum” every week – bringing together University of Akron and Henan students through videoconferencing. The topics are broad – curriculum, popular culture, world issues, and food, to name a few topics. I have sat in on these sessions and I am very impressed with the depth of discussion by our students.
Supporting our objective of cross-cultural exchange, just this week, you hosted 25 of The University of Akron’s students and faculty for a cultural emergence experience in China.
I want to personally thank you on behalf of our grateful university for sharing your excellent faculty with us, Dr. Guan, Professor Zhao lei, and currently Dr. Liu, Professor Run and Dr. Zhao.
A special thank you and recognition to Dr. Zhao – our Confucius Institute’s Chinese Director –who has spent almost two years with us to establish what we perceive to be one of the best Confucius Institutes, certainly in Ohio.
Today I want to talk about the mission and role of the 21st century University, at least how we see it in the United States, and how this understanding has shaped The University of Akron’s strategic plan for the next 10 years – a document we call “Vision 2020: A New Gold Standard for University Performance.”
I reviewed Henan University’s strategic plan, and in many ways our goals and aspirations are very similar. This is a great opportunity because through our collaborations, we can assist each other in achieving our shared trajectory for our two universities.
Over the last two years, The University of Akron, and our community partners and alumni have created a strategic plan that outlines our priorities as we move toward our 150th anniversary. Vision 2020 establishes a University that is dedicated to student success in the 21st Century global economy.
A university that is an intrinsic part of its region and state, that drives regional social, cultural, and economic advancement, while also developing, attracting and sustaining a talented and diverse student and faculty population. A university serving as a strategic partner and a transformational force that creates sustainable economic vitality in Northeast Ohio and beyond.
Henan’s strategic plan has many of the same goals and priorities. My English translation of one of your goals is to …. “ make contributions to national and regional economic and social development through talent development , knowledge creation, and expanded research, while focusing on cross-discipline engagement.” You share with us a desire to move beyond the boundaries of academic disciplines toward intellectual pursuits that transcend the disciplines that are focused on current societal issues and solutions to regional needs.
In our strategic plan one of our six goals establishes Centers of Innovation that will promote innovation and real-world problem-solving by bringing together faculty across disciplines. Research in a purely academic vacuum is not helpful in this day and age. Climate change, aging societies, global security—none of these issues can be addressed by working in the confines of traditional academic departments. In parallel, we are developing curriculum that increasingly moves students away from specialized academic training and toward integrated approaches to complex, real-life problems.
At The University of Akron we call this the Akron Model – relevancy, productivity and connectivity within and for our communities.
Higher education in the U.S. is in transition and universities are finding ways to prosper under the changing realities of the marketplace. Increasingly, universities are moving from a risk-averse and tradition-centered approach toward an entrepreneurial model that is aligned with regional, state and national priorities and student success in today’s global market place.
Universities as anchors
The 21st century University must play a key role in today’s knowledge driven global economy. Successful universities serve as “anchors” for Clusters of Innovation through the generation of creative capital, knowledge capital, human capital, social capital and financial capital
In discussing universities as anchors for innovation, our President often refers to “Eds and Meds.” These are communities most likely to prosper because there is a convergence of a university and medical facilities involving teaching, research, tech transfer and commercialization. I am very impressed with Henan University’s role in creating “Eds and Meds” for Kaifang and Henan Province through your medical and pharmaceutical college, college of nursing, and Henan’s affiliated hospitals. You are the economic vitality of this region and your goal is to strengthen this role as outlined in your strategic plan.
President Proenza also serves on the National Council on Competiveness that is a position to which he was appointed by former President George W. Bush. Innovate America, a publication of the Council states that, “…today we must focus our entire society on innovation. Success in the new global economy will belong to those countries that create and nurture the human resources of intellectual capital.” This is referred to in your strategic plan as talent development. We must prepare our graduates to create new knowledge and new technologies and quickly translate research discoveries into marketable products and services. We must provide our graduates with entrepreneurial skills so they can always innovate for their benefit and societies.
Relevant and connected
Universities of the 21st century must be relevant and connected to the community as stated in your strategic plan. The University of Akron’s strategic plan emphasizes research, curriculum, and service for the public good, while Henan’s strategic plan emphasizes “discipline specific enhancement by hiring more Ph.D. faculty and increased research, while encouraging multidisciplinary collaboration which will promote service to the community.”
At The University of Akron, faculty and students work together with community members to address local challenges. Universities serve as conveners of diverse partners that come together to develop bold and innovative solutions that ultimately can have broad, even global, implications. Such as the creation of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron a partnership founded by The University of Akron, which includes:
- Northeast Ohio Medical University,
- Summa Health System and
- The University of Akron.
The Austen BioInnovation Institute is focused on patient-centered innovation and commercialization through the intersection of biomaterials and medicine. It is working to pioneer the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving innovation that will transform Akron and the surrounding region into a model for biomedical discovery and enterprise.
Competition in higher education
The 21st century University needs to secure mission differentiation in a very competitive world of higher education. Increasingly there is a fierce global race for students, professors and resources. Both of our strategic plans speak to our desire for mission differentiation through quality education for our students as well as investment in our faculty and staff. At Henan you aspire to quality education and talent cultivation through “… a commitment to recognizing that the university’s human capital is it’s most important resource” and as such you have committed “…to enhancing the educational background of teachers by focusing on academic standards, research opportunities and cultural awareness.”
We are similar in our aspirations. At The University of Akron, I have referred to this quality differentiation for our students, faculty, community partners and alumni as the Akron Experience. We seek to be known by how much value we add in enabling the success of our students, our alumni and our community partners. For us, student success extends to civic and community engagement and attainment of personal goals. We also believe, as you do, that student success requires certain competencies, such as cultural competency and awareness. Student success is our success – and ultimately everyone’s success.
Because the world is increasingly complex and interconnected, the 21st century University must be a global university. Our long-term economic vitality as regions and nations require that we establish ourselves as globally connected hubs for emerging industries that are also linked with other world-class centers of research. Both of our strategic plans highlight the need to be global and interconnected.
As you can see we have similar aspirations for our universities. We can help each other achieve our strategic goals and priorities. We can learn from each other’s best practices regarding student success – as we have already begun in the Akron to Kaifang Forums. Our faculty can collaborate through teaching, research and service in order to address common societal issues. We can broaden our students’ knowledge and future success by academic cultural exchanges such as we have seen this week through your hosting of two University of Akron faculty from our College of Nursing who are meeting with several of your Deans and Directors in an effort to establish an exchange program for nursing students next summer.
I am confident as we move forward that we will be able to assist each other while serving as models for 21st century universities. Together we will reflect the New Gold Standard of University Performance.
Thank you for your attention, and the invitation to be here today!
Commencement address at SIAS International University
I took the occasion of speaking at Commencement at SIAS International University on May 29 to encourage the graduates to use their knowledge and energy to benefit the larger global society.
My remarks, titled “Create Wealth and Improve the World,” follow.
Greetings from the United States of America and The University of Akron! It is my honor to be with you today and I want to thank the founder of Sias University, Mr. Shawn Chen, for this opportunity.
I also want to thank you – the faculty, administrators, and students of Sias University – for the hospitality you have shown to my wife and me during our visit. Prior to our arrival, we had heard that Sias University is one of China’s ten most beautiful campuses. When I return home, I will tell everyone that this is true!
I also want to express my gratitude on behalf of our university president, Dr. Luis Proenza, and our faculty, for the care and enriched learning experience you have provided our students who are studying with you, and our alumni who are teaching at Sias. When the first group of Sias students arrives in the United States to study at The University of Akron in the fall of 2012, we promise to return your hospitality in equal measure.
The virtue of creating wealth
In the United States, this time of year is known as “graduation season.” Across the nation, students like you are celebrating the completion of many years of study. And although America has great diversity of people, cities and cultures, there is a curiously similar pattern to graduation season everywhere.
At the graduation ceremonies, a speaker says to the students, “Now that you have graduated, go out and improve the world!” But at family celebrations that night, parents often tell their sons and daughters something different. They say, “Now that you have graduated, go out and make money!”
Graduates of Sias University, I believe you are well suited to do both.
The president at my university likes to tell graduates that creating wealth is an honorable thing to do. But he points out that there is a difference between creating wealth and accumulating it. In his words, “Accumulating wealth leads only to individual riches. Creating wealth…enables you to enrich the community by allowing the economy to expand for the good of the whole.”
The primary contributors to wealth creation are, of course, the entrepreneurs, the risk-takers. It is estimated that half of all new jobs in America are created by the hundreds of thousands of new companies launched by entrepreneurs. The Kauffman Foundation, which is the world’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship, says that in terms of job creation, innovation and productivity, entrepreneurs drive growth.
Sending of ‘runners’
In some ways, entrepreneurs are comparable to a bamboo plant. As you know, there are varieties of bamboo that send off “runners” underground that sprout up some distance away from the main plant. In this new location, they provide new shade, new nutrients and new materials. Likewise, a successful entrepreneur continually creates new jobs, new cash flow, new opportunities not only for himself, but also for his workers, his partners, and many different communities.
Entrepreneurs make another contribution that is less recognized, but vitally important. Very often, entrepreneurs take an existing technology and use it in a way that creates new benefits, which consumers desire because it improves their lives.
An American journalist named Matt Ridley recently wrote an essay in which he asks, why don’t we show the same respect and admiration that we give to researchers and scientists, to those individuals who commercialize discoveries and innovations, and thus make improvements to our daily lives?
Consider some of Ridley’s points.
In 2009, almost 1.3 billion people traveled by air – and that’s just in Asia and North America. Inventors, scientists and engineers made it possible for a human to soar through the clouds, but entrepreneurs and businessmen made it possible for billions of people to afford it.
The first all-electronic computer, the ENIAC, was a technological breakthrough in 1946, but few people outside of the United States government had even heard of it. Thanks to the ingenuity and ambition of countless entrepreneurs, today we can hardly imagine life without our laptops, tablets and mobile devices.
Lasers remained in laboratories for almost half a century after their invention. They might be there still if it wasn’t for inventors and innovators who realized the technology could be put to use in a wide variety of consumer, medical, communication and other devices. Now carpenters use lasers to measure wood, professors and executives use them to point to displays, and almost all of us use them in our DVD players.
Hail the ‘cheapeners’
There is another group that Ridley believes we should thank. He calls them the “cheapeners.” These are people who are successful and often grow very rich because they find a way to sell something cheaper than their competitors.
A century ago, men like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller slashed the prices of rail freight, steel and oil in America by 90, 75 and 80 percent, respectively.
More recently Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, and Michael Dell, the creator of Dell Computers, did much the same thing.
While their main motivation was to create a profit, in doing so they also significantly improved the lives of millions of other people.
As Ridley wrote: “It’s the cheapening that raises the world’s living standards. And cheapening is often mighty hard work.”
The examples I gave you are from the past, but the near future holds the promise for more triumphs of the cheapeners. Solar power, high-temperature superconductors, biotechnology, and space travel all currently exist, but they are still too expensive for mass use. But you can be sure that someone, somewhere – perhaps even in this room – is working on plans to make one or more of these technologies affordable. And when they do, the lives of billions of people will improve, again.
All around you are examples of entrepreneurs who are benefiting society by creating wealth. You could begin your search for them by looking up at this stage.
Mr. Shawn Chen knew that for China to assume a leadership role in this era of globalization, Chinese students needed to be educated in an environment that merges the best of Chinese and Western educational philosophies. His innovative approach to higher education – the physical environment of European Street, the addition of 100 foreign faculty members, the influx of international students, the focus on career preparation based on trans-national economics – provides Sias students with an authentic international experience, right here at home. Mr. Chen translated his success in business into success in education, and in doing so created an institution that benefits individuals, corporations, communities and yes, even nations.
Let’s take a look at how some other entrepreneurs have directly affected your life. I imagine that many of you today will share photos and stories of your graduation with friends and families, and that you’ll do so online. And you will probably have Ma Huateng, to thank.
He created Tencent internet company in 1998, and it now offers services ranging from social networks and Web portals to e-commerce and multiplayer online games. Tencent is now one of the world’s 10 most popular websites, and the Tencent Charity Fund has set up a website focused on youth education, care for the disadvantaged, and disaster relief. In 2007, Time magazine called Ma one of the world’s most influential people.
If you want to see what a fellow graduate is doing, perhaps you will find them using the Baidu search engine. And as you probably know, Robin Li made that company, and the search for your friend, possible. Baidu provides an index of more than 740 million web pages, 80 million images and 10 million multimedia files. And only in a land as ancient and cultured as China would one find a hyper-modern technology whose name was inspired by an 800-year-old love poem.
There are many examples of entrepreneurs among your own generation. Perhaps you will send your graduation photos to friends using your mobile phone. If you use the PapayaMobile network and social gaming platform to do so, thank Si Shen, who founded that company. By the way Si Shen is only 29 years old.
Deng Xiaoping famously said, “To get rich is glorious.” I am sure that Mr. Chen, Ma, Li and Ms. Shen would add that it also is very hard work.
Standing on shoulders
At the beginning of this talk, I said that you, the graduates of Sias University, are well qualified to create wealth and improve the world. By choosing this institution for your studies, you have indicated your appreciation of the value of entrepreneurship. You understand that it is a quality that extends beyond business, and that can be applied to almost every profession.
I hope that my talk today has made clear that the knowledge you have gained here, and the talents that you have refined in the course of your studies, have provided you with the ability to create wealth. We have considered how entrepreneurship can spread and create new opportunities in new locations. We have contemplated examples of commercialization’s vital role in bringing the value of invention to the lives of everyone. And we have reviewed how some individuals’ efforts to create wealth have provided the foundation for today’s celebration, and made it possible to share your joy with loved ones far away.
I would like to leave you with a final story.
There is an ancient myth of a blind giant, who carried his servant on his shoulders. In this way, he could see which direction to take. The servant could reach up into the tallest trees and pick fruit for them to eat. And of course, the servant could alert the giant to dangers or obstacles ahead.
In the West, this story is the foundation of our saying that “We are like men who stand on the shoulders of giants.” It is frequently used at awards ceremonies or retirement parties to pay tribute to someone whose hard work, ideas or sacrifices provided the foundation for others’ achievements.
I believe this story also provides a good metaphor for us today. The giant is our modern world, with all of its peoples and massive accumulation of knowledge, technologies and processes. And you, graduates, are the servant, standing on its shoulders. From this height, you can see the road ahead. You can reach for the best fruit. You can avoid the costly perils.
But always remember: if you reap the benefits for yourself alone, the giant will have no use for you, and you may fall. But if your efforts also benefit this global society, then you will be honored, respected and greatly rewarded.
Thank you for your kind attention. I wish each and every one of you good fortune.
Ridley, Matt. Three Cheers for the Cheapeners and Cost-Cutters. The Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704436004576299431739673572.html
Airways, “Asia Surpassses North America in Number of Annual Air Travelers.”
Top 10 richest People in China 2011. International Business Times
Tencent one of 10 most popular