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ASU Global trip promotes sustainability, regional cooperation

February 04, 2009

A delegation led by Anthony “Bud” Rock, vice president for global engagement, and Stephen Feinson, director of ASU’s Policy and Strategic Partnerships Office, traveled to the United Arab Emirates the week of Jan. 12 for a series of meetings to follow-up on last summer’s visit to ASU by Sultan Saeed Nasser AlMansoori, minister of economy for the UAE, and President Michael Crow and Rock’s subsequent visits to the UAE.

The ASU group, which met with government leaders, university officials and private sector representatives, included Mari Koerner, dean of the College of Teacher Education and Leadership; Sam DiGangi, executive director of ASU's Applied Learning Technologies Institute; and Jonathan Fink, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability.

Focus was on two thematic areas linked to ASU’s design aspirations: education technology and teacher training; and sustainability, with emphasis on renewable energy and public policy decision-making.

The trip, which included stops in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al-Khaimah, explored a range of potential projects and collaborations between ASU and the UAE. The delegation met with government leaders from the ministries of higher education, economy and environment; officials from Abu Dhabi University, the Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE University and Masdar Institute of Science and Technology; and private sector representatives.

Abu Dhabi University is a potential partner in the areas of educational training and technology, including possible development of a joint master’s in teacher leadership, as well as potential degrees in areas of special education and a possible joint center in education policy.
A meeting with the crown prince and the deputy ruler of Ras Al-Khaimah may lead to a linkage with Arab Grid for Learning, a pan-Arabic educational technologies initiative in which ASU is a partner and stakeholder.

Among opportunities under discussion with governmental and private contacts was construction of a Decision Theater, modeled on ASU’s facility, at some location in UAE to focus on environmental decision making, urban planning, and possibly connecting with the Masdar Initiative, a new, carbon-neutral city for 90,000 being built from scratch outside the city of Abu Dhabi. The latter is being managed by CH2M HILL, a large, international engineering firm with a presence in Tempe.

In addition, Vice President Rock met with representatives of the Dubai Municipality and Chamber of Commerce to discuss interest on the part of the City of Phoenix in building relationships with the emirate.

“It was a successful trip,” says Rock. “This is a critical region and ASU has a tremendous amount it can contribute, not only to economic development, but to fostering regional cooperation and collaborations. We’ve identified a range of opportunities and potential funding that can extend ASU’s global engagement aspirations and the university’s core objectives–sustainability, teacher leadership training, educational technology and public policy decision making—in collaboration with our partners.”

Following the UAE meetings, Feinson and Fink continued on to Jordan and Israel for additional meetings where they identified potential partners and resources that could extend core ASU global engagement objectives to a more regional approach which would build on some of the natural parallels between Arizona and that part of the world.

Discussed were the possibility of Jordanian/Palestinian/Israeli collaborations with ASU in the key areas of water resources, renewable energy (particularly solar) and long-term ecological research with a heavy focus on roles for ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability and Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies, as well as Friends of the Earth Middle East, an non-governmental organization of Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists that works cooperatively on regional environmental issues.

“ASU is seeking solutions for sustainability problems that affect arid regions with rapid population growth,” says Fink, “conditions that definitely apply in the Middle East. Our emphasis on research that directly helps decision-makers was especially well-received by the leaders we met with in the UAE, Jordan and Israel. We are exploring partnerships around water, energy and urbanization.”