January 06, 2004

Political science chair to study, teach in Malaysia

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Uday Desai, the chair of the political science department at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, will spend three months in Malaysia during the spring semester through the Fulbright Scholar Program.

While at the University of Malaysia in Sabah, Desai will help faculty and doctoral students develop and organize their research programs, give lectures and work on his own research.

The Fulbright program provides grants for college and university faculty and administrators to lecture and conduct research in countries around the world. Desai has been with the University since 1978 and chair of the department for about seven years.

While in Malaysia from mid-January through the end of April, Desai also will lecture at various universities and institutes in that country and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, including in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. He will concentrate on political science, public administration and environmental policies.

"It's a nice feeling to have the opportunity to work with them," said Desai. "I think it really brings the world closer."

Malaysia is a democracy, but with a parliamentary system that features one strong party, Desai said. The differences between the United States and the political and economic systems of other nations can bring a sharper focus to various issues, he said.

"Sometimes you don't quite appreciate the special features, the special characteristics of your own system until you sort of step out of it and see how other countries try to often address, if not the same, very similar issues and you begin to see different ways of addressing very similar issues," he said.

Desai expects a great deal of interaction of ideas.

"I think it's a two-way street," he said. "It's not just that we know how to do things better than other people. "We take what we know and look if this is the best way to do it."

Desai also will spend time on research, specifically on how their political system addresses balancing the need for economic development with protecting the environment.

Desai chose Malaysia for several reasons, including the quality of the country's universities and institutes. He has also had several students from Malaysia, so he is familiar "with the quality of their higher education."

Desai's wife, Christine, an assistant professor in library affairs at SIUC, will also be on the trip.