Expanding Academic Cooperation with Indonesia by Launching a U.S. – Indonesia Higher Education Consortium

Greg Galford, an Associate Professor of Interior Architecture from Chatham University, had never really thought about Indonesia two years ago, but was set to travel there in April 2011 as more or less a tag-along faculty member. IIE had selected Chatham to join a cohort of six U.S. and six Indonesian colleges and universities that would dedicate two years to developing institutional partnerships and increasing U.S. study abroad to Indonesia. When at the last minute the senior administrator leading the effort was unable to travel with Greg, he found himself solely responsible for representing the university, anxious about what would be expected of him in Indonesia, and hyper concerned about making the short layover from Seoul to Bandung.

As I recall, he didn’t make the layover in Seoul (although he did eventually make it to Bandung), but two years on and Greg is a major faculty supporter of U.S.–Indonesia collaboration, has led twelve Chatham undergraduates on a study abroad program to Indonesia, and just returned from yet another trip where he presented at an international conference at Airlangga University and worked on furthering his Indonesia-based research. Greg has become not just Chatham’s champion for Indonesia efforts, but an example for all about how one doesn’t need to be a lifelong Indonesianist in order to be turned on to Indonesia.

Greg is just one example of the many dedicated people with whom I have had the pleasure of working on the U.S. – Indonesia Partnership Program for Study Abroad Capacity (USIPP) for the past two years. Funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, USIPP brought together six U.S. and six Indonesian higher education institutions to increase academic mobility between the two countries. The twelve institutions were: Airlangga University, Bandung Institute of Technology, Bogor Agricultural Institute, Chatham University, Gadjah Mada University, the Indonesian Institute of the Arts – Yogyakarta, Lehigh University, Miami Dade College, Northern Illinois University, the University of Indonesia, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington.

The original goal of the ECA grant was to increase U.S. study abroad to Indonesia; and this group did just that. By creating new, innovative study abroad programs—and with the help of funding from ECA—the twelve institutions brought 38 American students to Indonesia during the grant period, and included numerous American faculty and Indonesian participants as well. These programs focused on everything from religious pluralism to primatology; public health to Indonesian interior design.

More importantly, though, the two years that these institutions worked together allowed time for deep relationships to form; truly mutually beneficial and long-lasting partnerships. The study abroad programs that were created as part of USIPP were just the beginning, and this group continues to work together on more study abroad programs, joint research, faculty exchange, and other activities that are working to bring institutions in our two countries closer together.

In fact, the twelve schools were so committed to working with each other that, towards the end of the ECA grant, they unanimously decided to formalize their continued relationship through the USIPP Consortium. Launched just two weeks ago in St. Louis at the annual NAFSA conference, this Consortium will act as a platform for fostering academic collaboration and expanding student exchange between the U.S. and Indonesia by providing an umbrella structure for facilitating any number and type of activities between the Consortium members. Initially, institutions may consider focusing on undergraduate student mobility, graduate level exchange, and joint research, but the opportunities for collaboration are limitless.

The first, most logical step will be to expand upon the programs and relationships already developed through the initial ECA-funded USIPP program. For example, Lehigh University, the University of Michigan, and Gadjah Mada University co-developed the Democratic Society and Religious Pluralism program through the USIPP grant, engaging a bi-national cohort of four Indonesian and four American students in a four-week faculty-led initiative in 2011. Two years later, and with a $190,000 Henry Luce Foundation Grant for support, the program now includes six U.S. and six Indonesian students, and has expanded its institutional partners to include the University of Indonesia and Airlangga University.

Miami Dade, who brought eight students to Indonesia during the grant period, will be bringing fifteen students to Indonesia this summer on a new faculty-led study abroad program. Randy Kyes, from the University of Washington, who has led research-based study abroad programs to Indonesia for over two decades, will again bring a group of U.S. and Indonesian students to Tinjil Island on the Indonesia Global Field Study program, which he has run together with colleagues at Bogor Agricultural Institute since before many of its participants were even born.

The Consortium will assist these institutions by leveraging their complementary strengths to take advantage of joint funding opportunities; allow students from member institutions to join existing study abroad programs; utilize each other’s labs and other facilities; co-develop more programs and exchange models; and share best practices among Consortium members. Demonstrating the high-level institutional commitment from all members, the Rector, President or other senior administrator from each institution has signed a Letter of Intent in support of Consortium activities. These letters and other information are posted on the Consortium website.

The possibilities for the USIPP Consortium are infinite and exciting, and the twelve current member institutions now bear the responsibility of continuing all of the great work started throughout the past two years. Someday in the future—whether two or twenty years from now—this Consortium will have grown to include more U.S. and Indonesian members, changed course, expanded scope, and made significant headway in linking our two countries; but I can’t think of twelve better institutions to have championed this initial effort and who are better equipped to carry the initiative through these first critical years.