President Merten Reports Positive Outcome from Asian Visit

Posted: December 13, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey Banks

President Alan Merten’s recent three-week trip to Asia 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 currently experiencing a buzz of international activity.

Merten’s Asia trip included meetings with a number of universities, where he was briefed on higher education issues in talks with university presidents, deans, and various faculties. The agenda included many other items, including 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 hot topics such as Mason’s undergraduate admission policies pertaining to high school rankings and test scores, as well as how Mason admits its students. “We are committed to keeping the door open to international students and faculty and to looking for new ways to increase international exchanges,” says Merten.

While in Korea, Merten had dinner 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. These cutting-edge facilities are examples of Korea’s continuing input to the global economy. Mason alumni in Korea hosted two receptions, one with former visiting scholars and the other with students and associates of Mason.

Merten marked a milestone during the visit to Taiwan, when he inaugurated Mason’s first international alumni chapter at a dinner in Taipei with 13 Mason alumni. The goal of the Taiwan International Alumni Chapter is to foster mutual cultural and academic interests between Taiwan and the university. Mason’s Alumni Association will provide a source of mentoring and information to prospective students and alumni, and the Taiwan chapter will serve as a model for future international chapters.

Merten at Taiwan Alumni dinner
President Merten dines with members of the new Taiwan International Alumni Chapter during his visit to Taipei.

Merten made several high-profile speeches in Asia, where audiences were eager to learn more about George Mason University. One such event was his 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.” In this speech, Merten used George Mason as an illustrative example of a university deeply involved in its surrounding community and economic development.

Merten in China
While in China, President Merten spoke at the Fifth International Forum on Education.

The trip is already generating much follow-up activity. One such activity involved Merten’s participation in the Governor’s International Education Day program in Richmond last month. Joining a panel of international educators, Merten weighed in on the U.S.-China educational links. “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.

A new Mason web page that will help to keep the university community updated on faculty international travel and initiatives is now under construction. The page will be housed on the Global Connections web site and should be “live” after the holiday break.

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