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New Asian Platform to Broaden Opportunities

Vice Provost for International Affairs Gretchen Neisler and I recently facilitated meetings to answer questions and gather input for our new Asian platform—our effort to forge more collaboration in academics, research, and outreach and to broaden our reach through all of Asia.

Gretchen is currently directing the new Asian platform but plans to hire a part-time director for the initiative. Jie (Daisy) Shen, who served as administrative coordinator for the Confucius Institute, will serve as the Asian platform’s full-time administrator. An advisory committee of faculty, staff, and students will be established to help us develop the platform and provide guidance as it moves forward.

Based on questions we fielded at the forums, here are a few observations:

  • Although our Confucius Institute will be closing at the end of June, we intend to maintain our collaboration with Southeast University and expand our academic partnerships and exchanges in China and elsewhere in Asia. We plan to maintain and strategically expand our language instruction and cultural opportunities.
  • Our Confucius Institute was incredibly helpful in providing a well-developed structure for language instruction, Chinese partnerships and exchange, and cultural outreach. Our decision to close the CI had nothing to do with its performance. Our strategy is to build a more robust portfolio for Asia.
  • Japanese industry has made huge investments in Tennessee, and these companies provide exciting internship and employment opportunities for our students. We need to do whatever we can to prepare our students for this working relationship. Are there other ways to partner with these businesses? Recent visits by the Japanese consul general and ambassador have given us the chance to initiate these some of these conversations.
  • We need to improve and increase international student recruitment at the undergraduate and graduate level. UT’s Center for International Education is working closely with Enrollment Management to strategize a plan that will enable UT to grow our enrollment. Together they are initially reviewing the application process, and in the long term they will reach out to international alumni and international businesses to engage in a recruitment plan. We are exploring how we might privately fund scholarships for international students. At the same time, we are trying to build the support network international students need to ensure they have a positive experience at UT.
  • We need to nurture the global mindset of our campus. We need to tout the good work we’re doing, share our expertise, and communicate about processes and opportunities.