Posted April 1, 2010

At Temple, globalization is a work in progress

A conversation with Dean Hai-Lung Dai, recently appointed as senior vice provost for International Affairs, on efforts underway to expand Temple’s global presence.

Hai-Lung Dai is a busy man. In addition to his positions as dean of Temple's College of Science and Technology and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Chemistry, Dai was appointed senior vice provost for International Affairs last November. After less than half a year in his new role, Dai has already overseen a dramatic expansion of Temple's overseas partnerships and opened up a new office for recruiting prospective Temple students in Asia — all while preparing for his musical debut in the newly renovated Baptist Temple at "A Celebration of Globalization at Temple" on May 2. The Temple Times caught up with Dai to discuss Temple's international efforts.

Temple Times: The Office of International Affairs has been buzzing with intercontinental activity lately. What's going on?

Yes, new partnerships are popping up almost monthly now. We have agreements with a dozen top-tier universities in Taiwan and three in Korea. In China, we have formal relations with three, with more to come. That's just in Asia. We are also developing new relationships in Europe and Africa — we have pending agreements in Romania and Nigeria. This morning we met with officials from Lund University in Sweden. In the Middle East, Dean Amid Ismail of the Kornberg School of Dentistry is helping us develop a new formal agreement with the Kuwaiti government.

TT: How many international partnerships does Temple have now?

All told, 112 agreements with universities in 43 countries and 20 additional pending agreements that will get us into three new countries. Since President Hart arrived in 2006, our international partnerships have increased by 50 percent. But our goal is not just to sign a piece of paper! We want to use these relations to facilitate inbound and outbound activities: student and faculty exchanges, professional and research collaborations, study abroad opportunities, and our innovative three-plus-two dual degree programs. That's the bottom line at OIA — we want more Temple students and faculty going out into the world and more international students coming to Temple.

TT: The globalization of Temple has been a top priority of the president and the Academic Strategic Compass. What's the payoff for students?

Experiencing and understanding the world is an absolutely essential aspect of education. We have so much to learn from other cultures. Each one offers lessons. For example, in the health care debate, people on both sides have cited European health care systems. If a student studies in Europe, they'll be exposed to a new way of looking at the world and solving problems — whether it's different approaches to social services, security or the arts. But there's a competitive aspect as well. The world students enter today upon graduation is very different from my generation. The United States is no longer the center of the world, the only country with know-how. Our graduates have to be competitive. As educators, this is our responsibility: How do we empower our students so they can compete with young people from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world?

TT: Are you satisfied with the progress of Temple's internationalization?

Temple has been a leader in the globalization of higher ed. We have two pioneering campuses in Asia and Europe — Temple University Japan and Temple University Rome. They're unique, and we're proud of that. We also have a remarkable number of faculty members who have nurtured sophisticated partnerships abroad. But because Temple is large, decentralized university, we need to do a better job of sharing ideas and resources — many faculty members with international connections don't know about potential collaborators at Temple doing work in the same countries. We'll be stepping up efforts to facilitate faculty collaboration (the best place to start for all international inquiries is our web site, When it comes to getting international students to come to Temple and getting our students out into the world, we have room to grow. Only about 4 percent of our students are international. At the University of Southern California, 30 percent — more than 7,000 students — are international. The number of study abroad students isn't too bad. Our junior study abroad number is about 6 percent. On the other hand, Penn State is 12 percent, so we can do better.

TT: How can Temple attract more international students?

Recruiting international students is a big business. Before I took this position, I spent several days in China to learn how foreign universities recruit students. Some contract with recruiting agencies on a fee-per-student basis, but that didn't feel right for some of us. So we decided to open up a recruiting office of our own to put out the Temple brand and highlight our strengths. As a testing ground, we chose China. We have moved quickly. The Temple Liaison Office in China opened in Beijing on Jan. 1, 2010. The first students recruited by this office will come in the fall. This year we are probably looking at scores of more applications. If the operation is successful, we may open up a second one in Shanghai. Our next target is India.

TT: It's easy to see the benefits of more Temple students studying abroad, but how does increasing the number of international students at Temple help the university?

With globalization, learning about other cultures and the way other nations solve problems is no longer optional. You can't understand the world by watching a TV show or listening to a lecture. You need to live among people from other cultures to get a deeper understanding. Ideally, every Temple student would study abroad. But if we can't bring all our students to the world, we have to bring the world to our students. There are pragmatic reasons as well. International students pay to come to American institutions to study. When they come to Temple, they pay out-of-state tuition. With the end of the baby boom echo effect, we are faced with a declining pool of students. Where will we get students? This is just the financial reality.

TT: But doesn't more international students mean fewer domestic students?

Given Temple's tradition of access — something I cherish and take very seriously — it is understandable that some people might be concerned that taking in foreign students might reduce educational opportunities for other students. I would answer that you don't have to give up one to do the other. I believe that bringing in more international students will bring in more revenue in addition to enhancing the Temple experience. If we have a more prosperous university, then we will have more resources to help domestic students, especially those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those Temple students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be better prepared to graduate and compete because we'll be able to devote more resources to their success and they will have been exposed to a more international environment.

TT: You were an international student yourself at one time. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Taiwan to a father who was in the military and a mother who was an elementary school teacher. At the time, Taiwan was very much an underdeveloped country. Here's just one example: In my elementary school in the early 1960s, barely half of the students wore shoes. I grew up at a time when Taiwan was experiencing very rapid economic development, very much like today's China and India, the top sources of international students in the United States. I followed a very traditional route — I finished college at National Taiwan University, did my military service for two years, and then came to the United States for graduate training. I went to Berkeley to study chemistry. It was a very interesting experience. I remember in my orientation session. I was told that Berkeley was the only city that separately negotiated a peace treaty with North Vietnam. I thought: 'Wow, welcome to the United States!' [He laughs.] That was 1976. It was my first time outside of Taiwan.

TT: We've been told that science wasn't your first scholarly interest. True?

Well, my father wanted me to be an engineer, but I wanted to be a musician — specifically a composer and conductor. When I was young, I listened to classical music records endlessly. My father thought I was a nerd. The only music he gave me was top-10 pop songs in the U.S. in 1965. When I was in high school, I performed with a semi-professional chorus. In college, we had a very serious chorus and performed a lot. Privately, we chorus members considered choral music to be our first major; I admit science was almost an afterthought at times. Eventually I realized that I couldn't make a living from music, but I never gave it up. I conducted a choir called "Chinese Musical Voices" in Philadelphia for 16 years. On May 2 at 3 p.m. in the newly renovated Baptist Temple, I'll be conducting the Ambler Symphony Orchestra and a 100-member choir. It's part of a big event called "A Celebration of Globalization at Temple." We'll be presenting two people — Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Robert Reinstein, former vice president for International Programs and dean of Temple's Beasley School of Law — with awards for their contributions to the globalization of the city and the university, respectively.

TT: How can Temple get more students to study abroad?

We're exploring many strategies. We'd like to leverage our overseas campuses. After discussions with the deans of TUJ and TUR, we'd like to explore offering courses in wider range of disciplines so that a larger pool of students will consider studying abroad. For example, science offerings at both are limited. But it's not easy to get faculty to go teach at these campuses with a weakened American dollar and family considerations, so we're looking into working with other universities in Tokyo and Rome to help us teach science and other courses. We also hope to design courses with a compressed time scale so that faculty members don't have to live abroad for a whole semester. Another way to get more students to study abroad is through exchange partnerships. Right now, our exchange students can be counted with the fingers of two hands. In the last couple of months, we've identified more than 10 students who will go to Asian universities as exchange students. We dramatically increased the numbers in very short time. Now the mission is to forge more exchange relationships with foreign universities.

TT: Can faculty help?

Yes! If our faculty thinks it is a good thing for their students to go study abroad, they'll encourage them. We hope faculty also will participate by designing a study abroad component in their courses. Faculty support will be essential — and not just for expanding study abroad opportunities. With the support of the Provost's Office, OIA will be forming a Faculty International Advisory Council made up of 15 faculty members from different schools and colleges — some appointed by the Provost's Office and some by the Faculty Senate. The council will help us leverage individual faculty relationships and knowledge. But more importantly, it will give faculty a chance to help shape our international activities. OIA does not intend to dictate international affairs, and we do need advice and support from the faculty. I also am appointing five "faculty ambassadors," scholars with international reputations who travel a lot and can help us develop relationships abroad.