FEATURE — Summer 2007

On the McDonnell International Scholars Academy spring trip to Washington, D.C., Professor James Wertsch, Academy director, discusses the U.S. Senate with Ming Zu (Tsinghua University), the Cabot Corp. Corporate Fellow, who is working on an M.B.A. at the Olin School of Business.
Educating Future World Leaders

Washington University is partnering with universities around the globe in the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, creating a new model for international cooperation in education and research.

by Rick Skwiot

St. Louis, once America's Gateway to the West, could become a gateway to the East and beyond thanks to an ambitious and burgeoning Washington University global initiative that is building international bridges with top universities, scholars, faculty, government agencies, and corporations.

Though just in its inaugural year, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy is already stimulating research collaboration across continents, networking across disciplines, and learning across cultures—new ventures helping to augment the University's international presence in an evolving educational world.

"The Academy represents a new model for international cooperation in education and research," says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. "We are extremely proud of our first group of truly outstanding McDonnell Scholars, and we are proud of recently recruiting our second cohort."

John F. McDonnell

Opening its doors in 2006 with a $10 million endowment from John F. McDonnell and the JSM Charitable Trust—an endowment now grown to $27 million—the Academy brings to campus select graduate and professional students from partner universities worldwide to work toward advanced degrees and learn about American culture and international issues. With additional funding from sponsoring corporations and foundations, and other groups and individuals, the scholars receive full tuition, financial support, and housing while being exposed to leadership training and special educational and cultural events.

"The Academy is more than just a good deal to get through graduate school," says James V. Wertsch, director of the Academy and the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences. "It's a leadership program for future world leaders."

Broadening perspectives of future global leaders

That view is echoed by Ryotaro Kato, a McDonnell Academy Scholar from the University of Tokyo, where he earned an M.D. before a residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and subsequent entry into the Washington University School of Law's J.D. program.

"Without the generous scholarship from the McDonnell Academy, I'm not sure I could have afforded to finish my last year of law school," says Kato.

But equally important has been his exposure through the Academy to other disciplines and cultures, and a deepened understanding of American society, which are informing his professional future.

"I'm getting new thoughts and new ideas," says Kato, "on what to do with my career," which will likely blend medicine and law in medical ethics, intellectual property, and health-care policy.

Kato's metamorphosis has come about not only through leadership training programs and events but also through the collegial environment given Academy Scholars, who live together, travel together, and attend cultural events as a group.

"I enjoy the camaraderie and meeting students from other Asian countries, who all share the same struggles adapting here. Previously I met few non-Americans in the hospital or law school," says Kato. "But these scholars from other countries and other disciplines are broadening my perspective, adding international and interdisciplinary understanding."

The first class of McDonnell Scholars visited the U.S. Capitol while in Washington, D.C.: (front row, from left) Karavikar Svetasreni (Chulalongkorn University); Ambassador Himadri Pakrasi, the George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences; An-Chun "Jenny" Chien (National University of Singapore); Wei-Jen Chua (National Taiwan University); Ziyan Zhang (Peking University); Qing Nian (University of Hong Kong); Chuanzhen Zhou (National University of Singapore); (second, from left) Woosung Kim (Yonsei University); Ambassador Pratim Biswas, the Stifel and Quinette Jens Professor of Environmental Engineering Science; Hong Min Park (Seoul National University); Yanjiao Xie (Peking University); Ming Zu (Tsinghua University); Yuanming Shan (Fudan University); Juanyi Yu (Chinese University of Hong Kong); (third, from left) Manoranjan Sahu (Indian Institute of Technology Bombay); Vikram Govindan (Indian Institute of Technology Bombay); Zhou Li (Fudan University); Hyun Cheol Roh (Korea University), with his wife, Hyunmi Roh; Academy Fellow Homayun Darmangar; (top, from left): Academy Director James Wertsch, the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences; Ta-Chih Hsiao (National Taiwan University), and Ryotaro Kato (University of Tokyo).

Building international, interdisciplinary networks

Kato notes that, in 1905, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in to help negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War, thanks in large part to his prior collegiate friendship with a high Japanese official named Kentaro Kaneko. While Kato holds no illusions about participating in any future international events quite as dramatic, he argues: "One bullet can change the world, but one friendship can heal the world. I hope that my friendship with other scholars may one day make a difference. I'm impressed by all McDonnell Academy Scholars who are top-notch and will be successful."

Ming Zu, the Cabot Corp. Corporate Fellow from Tsinghua University, underscores the importance of the network-building already taking place among Academy Scholars, partner universities, and their faculties.

"It's a great opportunity to build a network with scholars," she says. "Most now are from Asia, but next year we're expanding around the world."

That relationship-building comes in part from organized Academy cultural activities, such as symphony and jazz-club visits; a spring trip to Washington, D.C., to meet members of Congress, government officials, research-funding experts, think-tank scholars, and more; and from informal events, such as ad hoc dinners where the scholars each bring a dish from their Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Singapore, Taiwanese, or Thai hometown.

"It's a multicultural learning experience and such a great opportunity to build a network—a different, bigger sort of network," says Zu, "not just of scholars but including deans, professors and chancellors, politicians, and business executives."

Zu, after graduating with a degree in electronics engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, worked as a software engineer for a Texas chemical manufacturer; this summer she is interning at Emerson Corp. in St. Louis as part of her Olin School of Business M.B.A. training.

"I'm getting to meet great minds from U.S. companies, amazing people, and to hear how they succeeded. It's a great opportunity to learn," she says, "and to prepare for a career in global business."

Forming a global view for global ventures

Given the international importance of the American, Chinese, and Indian economies, Vikram Govindan, the Monsanto/Dr. Norman Borlaug Corporate Fellow, is gaining a valuable and expanded view of his future opportunities as a global entrepreneur, thanks to his Academy encounters with American business leaders and Chinese scholars.

"India has a lot to learn from both the United States and China," says the Olin School of Business M.B.A. candidate from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. But the learning doesn't stop there for Govindan. "My roommate is Korean, and other scholars come from other cultures, so I'm learning a lot from people all over the world."

While admitting that cold St. Louis winters "take some time to get used to," Govindan found a warm reception at St. Louis-based Monsanto.

Academy Scholars met with several U.S. politicians during their trip to Washington, D.C. Here, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri greets Woosung Kim (Yonsei University), who is studying electrical and systems engineering at the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

"Visiting Monsanto, I've gained considerable understanding of the business, and my internship there is a logical extension of the M.B.A. program," says Govindan.

Govindan also praises the "very high quality" of his Olin School of Business professors and classmates, and the Academy activities that steep him in American culture.

Finding common ground on international differences

While the Taiwan Strait and tumultuous 20th-century history separate Taiwan from the People's Republic of China, scholars from both sides of the strait come together collegially at the Academy.

"The McDonnell Academy is like a big family," says Ta-Chih Hsiao, the Boeing Corporate Fellow from National Taiwan University, who came to the Academy after earning his master's degree in environmental engineering at Stanford University.

"I enjoy talking with mainland Chinese scholars, fellow Chinese speakers," says Hsiao. "The Academy provides a platform for us to work together. They're all excellent students, and we talk openly on any issue, any problem."

While that sort of international communication and camaraderie bodes well for the world's geopolitical future, it also provides hope for solving entrenched global problems, such as energy and the environment, says Hsiao, an environmental engineering Ph.D. candidate in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

"The environmental issue will continue to be a hot issue," he says, "and since this issue is so closely related to that of energy, the struggle becomes like a seesaw." (See "Academy Hosts International Symposium on Energy and Environment".)

Building academic bridges—and more

Peking University graduate Ziyan Zhang concurs with Hsiao's assessment of their Academy colleagues and international networking.

"They are among the best students in Asia. I'm looking forward to more chances to get to know them better and work with them," says Zhang, the Tyco Healthcare/Mallinckrodt Corporate Fellow.

And that developing international network extends beyond the Academy Scholars to their partner universities, faculties, and administrations—facilitated by McDonnell International Academy Ambassadors. (See "McDonnell Academy Ambassadors Solidifying Worldwide Partnerships".)

Zhou Li (Fudan University), the Corning Inc. Corporate Fellow working on a graduate chemistry degree, gets his photo taken by the statue of Thomas Jefferson. The Jefferson Memorial was a stop on the group's tour of Washington, D.C.

Each scholar benefits from the individual guidance of a Washington University faculty member, who acts as liaison with the scholar's home university, working to establish research and other collaborations across disciplines and traveling with the scholar annually to the partner university.

"Our Academy Ambassadors are some of the best professors at the University," says Zhang. "We meet frequently and talk a lot. It's a great chance to set up connections with them and learn from them.

"We will travel with ambassadors back to our schools once a year, where there will be more communications with chancellors and professors there," Zhang continues. "This will strengthen collaborations between Washington U. and the top Asian universities where we come from."

A chemistry Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Zhang also sees Academy-driven networks extending beyond university walls.

Developing leadership skills

Seoul National University Scholar Hong Min Park, studying in the political science doctoral program in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, sees the Academy offering him financial support, academic excellence, cultural exposure, and academic networking that add up to developing important leadership skills and resources.

Park, who earned a master's degree in political science from Northwestern University and is conducting research on U.S. congressional politics, was particularly excited by the Academy's March trip to Washington, D.C., which included visits with members of Congress and a stop at the Brookings Institution. But he's also gratified by what he's learning from his American hosts and his fellow international scholars.

"I can hear directly what Americans think. I'm also getting to learn about Chinese and Indian cultures," says Park. "The chancellor and a lot of high-level professors care a lot about Academy Scholars and believe the Academy is a base for the University to go international. It's an ambitious goal, and I'm proud to be part of it."

Growing international partnerships

The Academy currently boasts relationships with 20 partner universities (see list) across Asia and the Middle East, and it is working to recruit more worldwide, according to Wertsch.

"We will be looking for additional partners in Latin America, Africa, and Europe, including Russia and Eastern Europe," he says. "And we may add a few more institutional partners in East and South Asia as well as Australia."

Wertsch anticipates ultimately as many as 35 partner universities.

That growing university network and the McDonnell Academy's remarkable progress in its brief existence gratifies the man whose generous endowment and ongoing interest in education and international relations helped bring it about.

"So far the Academy has progressed beyond my expectations," says John McDonnell, "in the quality of the first cohort of scholars, in the continued addition of premier partner universities, and in the broadening engagement with those universities."

Rick Skwiot is a free-lance writer based in St. Louis.

For more information, visit: http://mcdonnell.wustl.edu/.

McDonnell Academy Ambassadors Solidifying Worldwide Partnerships

Not only is the McDonnell International Scholars Academy already paying significant dividends to its scholars through its financial support, leadership training, and cultural broadening, it's also enhancing Washington University's global presence and international research efforts, thanks in large part to the work of its faculty ambassadors.

"The Academy's gaining much more international exposure for the University and elevating our overall profile," says Academy Ambassador Barbara Schaal, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Arts & Sciences and professor of biology.

In St. Louis, Schaal and her fellow ambassadors act as mentors and local resources for Academy Scholars, and travel annually with the scholars to their partner university. There, Academy Ambassadors strive to foment research and administrative partnerships and cooperation.

"I interact not only with people in my field but with the administration at Peking University, as well as faculty in other fields, hoping to establish collaborations," says Schaal.

Such forays are already bringing benefits, she says, in the form of overlapping research programs between Washington University and Peking University. Similarly, a University delegation's trip to the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay last December led to the formation of a collaborative Center of Excellence funded by the Indo-U.S. Science & Technology Forum, according to Academy Ambassador Pratim Biswas.

"We're a global university now," says Biswas, the Stifel and Quinette Jens Professor and chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental, & Chemical Engineering. "Many things we study—such as the environment—now are global issues and must be approached in a global manner. To do that, we're establishing global research connections in Asia and around the world."

The synergy being created with partner universities has impressed Biswas.

"By developing these linkages," he says, "we see how we can apply our technology to other parts of the world. It's just the beginning, and it's very satisfying and very exciting."

In March 2007, Biswas traveled with Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton; James V. Wertsch, Academy director; some 25 other faculty and staff; and members of WUSTL's International Advisory Council for Asia to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok to build multilateral networks and collaborations with South Asia institutions.

Says Wrighton: "The Academy Scholars, the Academy Ambassadors we have appointed, and the programs engaging our partner universities all contribute to our overarching ambition of building understanding and cooperation among people and institutions of the world."

University Partners and Faculty Ambassadors

Middle East Technical University
Ambassador Ahmet T. Karamustafa

Chulalongkorn University
Ambassador Gautam N. Yadama

China Agricultural University
Ambassador Ralph S. Quatrano

Peking University
Ambassador Barbara A. Schaal

Tsinghua University
Ambassador Frank C-P Yin

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Ambassador Yoram Rudy

Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
Ambassador Itai Sened

Hong Kong
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Ambassador Ping Wang

University of Hong Kong
Ambassador Stephen H. Legomsky

Bogaziçi University
Ambassador Ahmet T.Karamustafa

University of Indonesia
Ambassador John R. Bowen

Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
Ambassador Pratim Biswas

New Delhi
Jawaharlal Nehru University
Ambassador Himadri Pakrasi

Korea University
Seoul National University
Yonsei University
Ambassador Tae Sung Park

Fudan University
Ambassador James T. Little

National University of Singapore
Ambassador Michael W. Sherraden

National Taiwan University
Ambassador Tuan-Hua David Ho

University of Tokyo
Ambassador Shirley Dyke

Academy Hosts International Symposium on Energy and Environment

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton (left) and a panel of international university presidents discuss ways to move forward at the symposium's concluding session May 7. Joining Wrighton are panelists (from left) Shenghong Wang, president of Fudan University; Chang Young Jung, president of Yonsei University; Khunying Suchada Kiranandana, president of Chulalongkorn University; Ural Akbulut, president of Middle East Technical University; Usman Chatib Warsa, rector of the University of Indonesia; and Si-Chen Lee, president of National Taiwan University.

Perhaps no global issue begs international collaboration as much as the environment. Fittingly, the McDonnell International Scholars Academy's first thematic meeting of partner universities in May 2007 focused on the interrelated problems of energy and the environment.

The symposium brought together more than half of the presidents and 38 professors and administrators from partner universities; Academy Scholars; Washington University professors and administrators; attendees from foundations, government agencies, and research organizations; and noted speakers from business, education, and government.

The goal of the International Symposium on Energy and Environment (www.eer.wustl.edu), according to Pratim Biswas, chair of the University's Department of Energy, Environmental, & Chemical Engineering, was to "establish environment and energy connections of global importance" and begin to make "a road map on how to address these issues and make progress."

More specifically, the symposium worked to:

  • identify globally important research and education areas in energy and environment;
  • communicate areas of strength at each partner university;
  • develop ideas for future collaboration that build on the synergies among and strengths of the universities;
  • explore opportunities to submit joint proposals and seek funding to promote multilateral collaboration.

The symposium kicked off with a keynote address by Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Israel, India, Russia, and others. Other
speakers included Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto; Ralph Cicerone, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; and Professor John C. Crittenden, Arizona State University, who lectured on sustainability in urban areas.

Subsequent sessions included a panel on Environmental Education and breakout groups on Aerosols and Air Quality and Health; Water Resources and Sustainable Systems; and Energy and Environment.

The Environmental Education panel explored collaborative approaches to environmental education. Participants also investigated opportunities to co-teach and exchanged information on energy and environmental curricula employed at their respective institutions.

"The symposium helped identify certain teams and energy interconnections of global importance," says Biswas, "and facilitated discussions on what the United States and the world are doing. Further, it established environmental education benchmarks and stimulated an ongoing dialogue."

In his closing remarks to the participants, Chancellor Mark Wrighton called for universities worldwide to marshal their resources for a global effort to secure a brighter, sustainable future. Speaking on behalf of the participants, Wrighton issued a call to action that can be viewed at the following: news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/9470.html.