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IVB Hosts Vietnamese Ambassador, African DelegationThe Honorable Mrs. Ton Nu Thi Ninh (Photo by Gohar Grigorian)

IVB Hosts Vietnamese Ambassador, African Delegation

Other visitors to UCLA this February came from China, Russia, Japan, and the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

By Jessica Hoolko

The IVB facilitated a series of trips by international visitors to UCLA in February. Distinguished visitors included a five-member delegation led by the Honorable Mrs. Ton Nu Thi Ninh, Vietnamese ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg and Head of the Mission to European Union in Brussels, and representatives of six African countries participating in a U.S. State Department program on Civil Rights and Community Leadership. UCLA administrators, leaders of the UCLA International Institute, and other faculty and staff met with dozens of visitors over the course of the month.

Ambassador Ninh visited the campus on Feb. 23, 2007, to discuss matters related to a proposal for a new university in Hanoi. The delegation first met with Nicholas Entrikin, acting dean and vice provost designate of the International Institute, and Asia Institute Director Bin Wong. The delegates later met with Dr. Nga Scott, administrative director of International Programs at the School of Public Affairs. 

At the first meeting, Ambassador Ninh explained that the delegation planned to visit a number of institutions of higher education in the United States. and describing other meetings scheduled in Washington D.C. Members of the delegation included Professor Nguyen Lan Dung and Mr. Le Quang Minh of Can Tho University, both members of the National Assembly.

According to the ambassador, each of the delegates had a vested interest in secondary education in Vietnam, as partners or sponsors of private university initiatives. A recent proposal for a new University in Hanoi, established by the Research Council Committee for the Prime Minister, had raised questions of whether it was best to build a new university from scratch or put available resources into turning an existing institution into a top-tier university. Ambassador Ninh took the position that the better option would be to create a new university that would act as a catalyst for neighboring institutions, but also raised the possibility of funding successful existing programs.

Asked to comment on the strengths of UCLA, especially its international programs, Professor Entrikin cited UCLA's "ability to grow into a multi-dimensional public university in a relatively short amount of time," due largely to generous early funding. Professor Wong warned that it was difficult to compare UCLA's beginning to that of a modern university due to differences in time and resources. The two briefed the delegation on the variety of international programs at UCLA, especially interdepartmental degree programs and other programs run out of the International Institute and its Centers, as well as language-based majors and other offerings.

Professor Wong's discussion focused largely on the role of the sciences in the proposed university and the challenges involved in creating a successful scientific program in a country possibly unable to support an expensive state-wide operation.

The group ended the meeting with a discussion of the role of cultural identity in higher education and what Professor Entrikin called "the internationalization of education," including the use of videoconferencing and distance learning.

At a meeting over tea with Dr. Scott, the delegation discussed possible collaborative initiatives such as student exchange programs and cooperation between faculty members in the two countries.

African Delegation

A six-member African delegation visited the campus on Feb. 20 as part of a State Department–sponsored program on Civil Rights and Community Leadership. The delegation, which included members from Swaziland, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Benin outlined its goals for the project: exploring the diversity of American views, examining the way that organizations in the U.S. strive to improve the minority way of life, and discussing both modern and historical civil rights movements. Members met with Allen Roberts, director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center, as well as Andrew Apter, Professor and Chair of the MA Program in African Studies.

The discussion began with an overview of the African Studies Center by Professor Roberts. He described the Center as a "coordination point for faculty and students interested in Africa" that works with a variety of communities and organizations throughout Los Angeles and all of southern California, including "African heritage communities," or communities of Africans who recently emigrated to America. He described UCLA as an institution interested in African and African-American affairs throughout history, citing the activism of visual arts initiatives in the World Arts and Cultures Department, the work of the Public Health school, and the fact that UCLA was the setting for the original identification of the AIDS virus.

The delegates asked about student activist groups on campus, particularly the Darfur Action Committee (DAC). Professor Roberts discussed in detail the group's achievement in winning a vote from the Regents of the University of California to divest from companies doing business in Sudan. He described the tremendous effect that this student-initiated and student-run organization has had on the nation-wide divestment effort, and also compared it to the anti-apartheid movement at UCLA.

The IVB facilitated a number of additional international visitors in February:

  • Feb. 1: A ten-member delegation from Russia participating in the Rights of the Disabled Project, sponsored by the Community Connections Program, met with Dan Levitt, assistant director of the Office for Students with Disabilities, then took a brief campus tour to survey the University’s accessibility. After the tour and a lunch in Ackerman Union, the delegates met with Usability Analyst Patrick Burke of the Disabilities and Computing Lab.
  • Feb. 1: A second, six-member Russian delegation arrived to survey the UCLA Live Program as part of the State Department-sponsored Performing Arts Management Project. The project seeks to expose the delegation to a wide array of performing arts in the U.S. and examine their role in communities, as well as provide interactions with those communities. After a tour of the campus, the delegates met with David Sefton, Director of UCLA Performing Arts.
  • Feb. 6: The following week brought a visit from Fumika Murakami, a journalist from Nikkei Newspaper, one of Japan’s major financial newspapers. Murakami visited the campus as part of a trip to America with a goal of understanding the financial practices of U.S. universities, in the light of a shift towards market-oriented thinking within the universities of Japan. Murakami began the visit with an off-campus lunch with Angilee Shah, managing editor of AsiaMedia. Lunch was followed by meetings with investment managers George Lettenei and Tracy Christensen of AVC College Development.
  • Feb. 7: The next day, a nine-member delegation from Beijing City University in China arrived to learn about the university and discuss exchange programs. The delegation was lead by Zhang Junhua, the Director of Beijing City College. The group met with Nick Menzies, assistant director of the Asia Institute, before taking a tour of the campus.
  • Feb. 7: A sixteen-member delegation from Shanghai Jiao Tong University visited UCLA to discuss research policies and systems following a visit to CNSI in Santa Barbara. Led by Professor Yinghong Peng, deputy director of the Institute of Science and Technology Development, the delegation met with Vice Chancellor Roberto Peccei and representatives of departments throughout the University.
  • Feb. 9: A six-member delegation from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, led by Chancellor Qin Shaode visited UCLA to discuss relations between the universities and tour the Anderson School of Management and some other parts of campus. After meeting with Chancellor Norman Abrams, the delegation also met with representatives from the Asia Institute, the Center for Chinese Studies, the Anderson School, and the California Nanosystems Institute. In between meetings they took a campus tour.
  • Feb. 9: Dr. Nevzat Bacgeroglu, chairman of the Cihan Group, an Iraqi company currently in the final stages of developing the first private university in the Kurdistan region, met with Peter Szanton, program manager of the Center for Near Eastern Studies, to discuss university operations and exchange possibilities between UCLA and the new institution.
  • Feb. 16: Zhang Fengwu, deputy president of Heilongjiang Institute of Science and Technology, arrived from Changchun, China, to discuss graduate degree programs in engineering. Mr. Fengwu attended the Engineering Department’s annual Research Review and then spoke with Associate Dean Gregory Pottie of Research and Physical Resources.
  • Feb. 22: Ms. Guiping Yang, assistant professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Central University of Nationalities in China, met with Professor Scott Bartchy, director of the Center for the Study of Religion, and Professor William Bodiford of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures to discuss religion in American society.

Corrected: A previous version of this article mistakenly identified Ton Nu Thi Ninh as Ambassador to the United States. She is Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, and Head of the Mission to European Union in Brussels.

UCLA International Institute