April 22, 2008

Taiwan trip creates opportunities for SIUC

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Officials at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are building stronger academic relations with Taiwan, opening more opportunities for students and researchers and likely increasing enrollment through their efforts.

A delegation from SIUC recently returned from Taiwan, where they met with officials at several universities, signing agreements with some and laying the groundwork for cooperation at others. One major accomplishment involved securing an invitation for 30 SIUC architecture students and their faculty members to visit a Taiwan university for a course in comparative architecture.

Shing-Chung "Max" Yen, director of the Materials Technology Center at SIUC, arranged the trip for the delegation, which included several faculty members and students from the College of Engineering. The delegation included Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Dean John A. Koropchak, Tomaz Wiltowski, professor of mechanical engineering and energy processes, and Yen. SIUC engineering doctoral students Adam Campen, of Benson, and Agnieszka Konieczny, of Carbondale, also made the trip, as did Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole and Chang Sang San, of the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau.

The National Science Foundation, along with the Taiwanese Ministry of Education and the country's National Science Council, funded the trip.

The trip was one of scores SIUC staff and faculty have made to Asian countries during at least the last 20 years as the University builds ties in that part of the world. Yen, a native of Taiwan, said such outreach is critical to SIUC's overall mission of education and public service.

"It expands the SIUC campus to virtually a global campus," Yen said. "SIUC is really well known in Asia. SIUC know-how in the areas of curriculum and research has a lot of respect. People there are interested in the way Americans do things and see things. Vice-versa, we need to know more about that culture. It benefits all students."

The delegation visited National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, I-Shou University, Southern Taiwan University of Technology, National Yunlin University of Science and Technology and Feng-Chia University. At each stop, the delegation met with top leaders and researchers and outlined opportunities for future cooperation.

At NCKU, for instance, Koropchak said the delegation discussed a "1 plus 1" master's degree program in engineering, among other cooperative ventures, which will benefit SIUC students and Taiwanese students by giving them experience in different cultures while studying for their degrees.

At I-Shou University, the delegation attended a signing ceremony for an agreement that outlines the two universities' intent to cooperate on programs in the future.

"What we did was examine with each of these universities whether we are a good fit with one another," Koropchak said. "If we are, then we work toward collaboration. The next step is developing specific programs."

At National Yunlin University of Science and Technology, SIUC officials discussed creating an exchange program for architecture students. Yen said Yunlin officials offered to play host for 30 students and several faculty members from SIUC for a multi-week course in comparative architecture.

Officials at Feng-Chia University signed an agreement with the delegation to cooperate on research in energy, including coal, hydrogen separation and biofuels, Koropchak said. The cross-border cooperation could yield valuable advances in energy processes, he said.

"Researchers from different regions tend to have different approaches to common problems," Koropchak said. "So collaborations from these different perspectives can result in very unique research and success."

The two parties also will investigate creating another joint "1 plus 1" master's degree program and a dual degree in business and Chinese language. Koropchak said all such cooperation will only benefit students.

"Our University has long supported diversity in many forms, including experiencing other cultures and countries," Koropchak said. "We want our students exposed to these cultures so they are better prepared for life in a multi-cultural, international society."

Koropchak said the trips and agreements have the added benefit of likely bringing many new graduate students to SIUC for degrees. Yen said the trip might yield as many as 50 new students between the Center for English as a Second Language at SIUC and the architecture program.

Yen and Koropchak agreed building ties with Taiwan can perhaps lead to cooperation with mainland China and its universities, which remain somewhat closed at this time to Western universities.

"There is lots of demand for SIUC professors to deliver courses in Asia," Yen said. "SIUC is very well known in Asia, and some of our graduates have helped shape the university systems there.

"We must adapt to this global community thinking, and we can demonstrate the value of SIUC around the world," Yen said.