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ASU to take part in historic delegation to Myanmar

February 19, 2013

Arizona State University will take part in a delegation of 10 U.S. universities that will travel to Myanmar in late February to learn more about the current state of higher education in the country and explore potential partnership opportunities.

ASU will send two leading experts on Asia: professor Juliane Schober, a specialist on Burma history, culture and religion, and Denis Fred Simon, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and vice-provost and expert on East Asia, including Greater China.

Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, will lead the delegation with Meghann Curtis, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Programs. Representatives from the U.S. Embassy also will join the mission, which will visit universities, organizations and government representatives. This delegation is part of the Institute of International Education’s broader Myanmar higher education initiative which seeks to help the country rebuild its higher education capacity.

The delegation reflects indications from Myanmar President U Thein Sein and U.S. President Barak Obama that both countries are interested in increasing academic collaboration, according to the Institute of International Education. During his inauguration speech last year, President Thein Sein pledged to improve education and seek foreign expertise to lift standards to international levels. On a visit to the United States during the U.N. General Assembly, President Thein Sein discussed the critical role of civil society in maintaining a democratic and harmonious society, and cited more U.S.-Myanmar collaboration as a vehicle for much-needed human capacity development. His government has increased the country’s education budget from $340 to $740 million and has begun implementing wide-ranging reforms.

President Obama’s historic visit to Myanmar in November and the easing of U.S. export sanctions are among several recent actions demonstrating U.S. good will towards Myanmar, according to the Institute of International Education.

Members of the delegation plan to deliver lectures at a number of Myanmar universities on a variety of topics such as “The Role of Universities in Civil Society and Economic Development,” “New Teaching Methodologies,” and “Internationalization of the University.”

Some of the universities that the delegation plans to visit are: Yangon University, Yangon Technological University, the Myanmar Institute of Theology, Dagon University, Myanmar Institute of Economics, and Mandalay University. The delegation members will produce a report on higher education needs in Myanmar based on the findings of their meetings.

The Myanmar initiative includes a series of bi-national conference calls to increase higher education cooperation between the United States and Myanmar. The universities are taking part in the Institute of International Education’s International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP) with Myanmar, a six-month program that assists colleges and universities in developing a strategic plan for partnering with counterparts in Myanmar. According to the “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange,” published annually by the Institute of International Education with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 796 Myanmar students studied in the U.S. in the academic year 2010/11, a 14.5 percent increase from the previous year. Less than 100 U.S. students studied abroad in Myanmar in 2009/10.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recently announced expanded opportunities for U.S.-Burma exchange through the Fulbright Student and Scholar Programs, including the Fulbright Public Policy Fellowship.