By Kelly Olin, The Daily Iowan
With more than 1,700 University of Iowa students hailing from China, UI President Sally Mason and a number of university officials will travel to Asia in hopes of establishing new relationships and strengthening existing ties with alumni.
Mason will travel to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing in China, and Taipei, Taiwan, from July 1-9. A handful of UI officials will accompany Mason on the trip, including Provost P. Barry Butler and UI Foundation President Lynette Marshall.
"The vision for the trip is to help the UI to continue to engage globally in order to support its mission to provide excellence and accessibility in education, conduct transformative research, undertake groundbreaking creative work, and enhance higher education's role in public life," UI spokesman Tom Moore wrote in an email.
A total of 1,737 Chinese students studied at the UI in the fall of 2011, and another 98 came from Taiwan. China is home to the largest international population at the UI. [See the full picture of international student populations at the UI.]
And much like the UI, other Big Ten schools make trips to Asia for outreach and recruitment efforts.
Thomas Hardy, the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign's executive director of university relations, said trips to Asia are not unusual for administrators to make.
"When you're recruiting students in the United States, you go to California or New York," he said. "It's a global competition for the best students, and you need to have [the] leadership of the university show the flag and be a part of the recruiting effort."
The University of Illinois enrolled 3,086 students from China and 438 from Taiwan in the fall of 2011.
While there is no final cost available for the trip, Forrest Meyer, the executive director of strategic communications for the UI Foundation, said the Foundation will pay trip expenses for Sally and Ken Mason, one member of the UI President's Office staff, Marshall, and two other members of the Foundation staff.
Much like the trip Mason took to South Korea in 2008, UI officials see this trip to Asia as a way to build new relationships for current and long-term interests.
"Asia is the fastest growing economy in the world. As the economy grows, so does the interest in pursuing higher education for a larger fraction of their population," Butler wrote in an email. "In general, they have great respect for the American educational system, and it is important that we, the University of Iowa, be present to grow our partnerships with select Asian universities."
UI officials also seek to hire someone to focus on Asia in the Admissions Office.
UI Dean of International Programs Downing Thomas said Admissions is responsible for all undergraduate recruitment, including international recruitment.
"[It would focus] not totally on China but China in particular and also on parts of Asia such as Vietnam and Malaysia," he said, noting that the person will be hired by Admissions.
UI Admissions Director Michael Barron said the position hasn't been filled, but the creation of the role is important.
"China is the dominant country in sending students to universities in the U.S., including the University of Iowa, so it would make sense to want to provide some focused attention on that part of the world," he wrote in an email.
UI officials said China has one of the highest numbers of international alumni.
Thomas said networking in Asia is particularly important.
"Certainly, other parts of the world are important; however, we have many more alumni in Asia than places such as Africa or South America," he said. "It is really about building more long-term relationships."
Thomas said he feels this trip will help to "strengthen ties" with universities the UI has previously shared projects and research.
President Mason hopes to continue building the UI's visibility around the world for the purpose of recruiting more top international students and establishing research partnerships, Moore said.
"This area of the world is home to the largest emerging economy on the globe," he said. "Competition for students from this part of the world will no doubt continue to increase."
Metro Editors Kristen East and Jordyn Reiland contributed to this story.