AUC Fosters Relations with Asia
As the Asian region remains a subject of growing interest in the media and international affairs, AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP) continues to expand its connections in the continent.
In an effort to deepen educational ties with Asia, GAPP recently hosted 22 students from Peking University and 20 students from Tsinghua University. The trips encompassed a series of lectures and site visits to expose the students from Peking and Tsinghua universities to the wealth of expertise available at AUC and the economic, cultural and social environment of Egypt. In addition to hosting students, a group of GAPP alumni and graduate students have also recently returned from a trip to Peking and Shanghai, where they visited universities and public administration facilities.
“We are a school of global affairs determined to provide a worldwide view for our local students and engage foreigners to better understand our region,” said Nabil Fahmy '74, '77, dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and distinguished professor of practice in international diplomacy. “We can’t ignore a continent the size of Asia, which will have a more influential global role and greater interest in the Middle East region in particular. At GAPP, we are determined to be a bridge of understanding.”
By keeping an eye on relations with Asian institutions, GAPP is able to ensure that students are constantly conscious of the state of international affairs and engaging with different communities from around the globe. “I would like our students to have exposure to Asia," reflected Fahmy. "In order for this to happen, they have to engage. It is also an opportunity for faculty and students looking for career opportunities abroad.”
Through their visit to China, GAPP students were able to reflect on their own backgrounds and observe a different political atmosphere. "For me the visit to PKU and China was an eye-opening experience," said May Kamal, a journalism and mass communication major at AUC. "I realized that to fully enjoy and understand a contrasting culture, one must silence the voices of prejudgment and knowledge in his or her mind. Coming from a pro-democracy culture, visiting China and experiencing firsthand the belief in a socialist and communist ideology really put ideas into perspective. Despite its different culture within a global domination of western ideology, China managed to prove itself as a major global economic power and set itself apart, using its own developmental formula."
Another student, Shimaa Mahrous, who is working toward her Master of Global Affairs, was able to make interesting observations for her thesis, which looks at relations between Israel and China. The experience of actually traveling and interacting with people from China helped expand her understanding of public policy and international relations beyond the information absorbed in the classroom. "While there, we talked with people about public policy," said Mahrous. "People told us about education, healthcare and migration. I found there was a big gap between theoretical studies and reality. When I spoke with people on the street, I found differences between what I studied and what is actually happening."
AUC’s ties with Asian institutions is not just about exposing its own students, but also requires that the University welcome visitors and interest from abroad. “We want to invite more Chinese students to come here,” said Fahmy. “The first step is through an orientation process. We’ll be providing the students tailored lectures in the winter. It’s really a two-way street. Once we provide a foundation, in the future, we also look forward to joint research projects.”
Over the past several years GAPP has formed relationships with various Asian institutions. AUC has already signed several Memorandums of Understanding with universities, such as the National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, KDI School of Public Policy and Management in South Korea, Peking University in Beijing, and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Japan. These memorandums were aimed at encouraging wide-scope cooperation between universities as well as student exchange.
Outside of the collaboration through the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2014, GAPP’s relationship with Peking University has continued to evolve when the two held a joint conference, China and Egypt: Global Relationship and Development Path. In 2015, GAPP organized a roundtable discussion with Peking University on collaboration between Egypt and China as part of the president of China’s trip to Egypt. Just last year, Peking University and GAPP also organized a joint workshop in Beijing, titled China and Egypt Strategic Cooperation.
The School of GAPP also signed its own memorandum with Observer Research Foundation, an Indian nonprofit and public policy think tank. The school collaborated with the foundation to co-organize two conferences – one in Cairo in 2013 and one in New Delhi in 2014. The school has also welcomed other think tanks and university representatives to campus events. Most recently, the Middle East Studies Center (MESC) co-hosted the South Korean Middle East Annual Conference in Seoul, South Korea.
The Middle East Studies Center has increasingly opened its doors to collaborations with Asian embassies in Cairo and acts as a major point of attraction “The easiest force we can use to attract students from around the world to come study at AUC are things related to the Middle East,” said Fahmy. “We offer a window into the Middle East, so it is a unique experience.”
While Fahmy has participated in the conference before, this is the first time that MESC jointly organizes the event. Robert Mason, director of GAPP’s Middle East Studies Center, participated in the conference this year.
Gravity on Both Sides
These collaborative initiatives have the potential to expand into further partnerships with educational institutions and other entities in the Asian region in the future. “Gravity is pulling on both sides,” said Fahmy. “We have an interest in Asia, and these countries have an interest in our region. As an academic institution, naturally speaking, we want to engage with academic institutions dealing with policy and global affairs.”
Students from Tsinghua University were impressed with AUC's campus during their visit and eager to learn more about Cairo, Egypt as well as the the specific educational environment at AUC. Through their sessions with various professors, the visiting students were able to get a peek into AUC studies and classroom culture. "The campus is very lovely," said Xiaoyu Zhang, senior from Tsinghua University. "I am also impressed by the library and the rare book collection. I found a huge amount of maps and archives that could help us with research about Egypt. I think the University offers high quality education. [In the classes], we gained knowledge about different aspects of Egypt."
The students took particular note of the diversity on campus. Chi Zhang, another senior of Tsinghua University, added, "I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to travel here. It’s quite impressive. It’s a mix of cultures. I'm also impressed by the hospitality of people."
AUC, in particular, is well-positioned to attract international interest in the Middle East and North Africa region. “If you’re interested in the Middle East, the logical place to study is Cairo,” noted Fahmy. “Being in Cairo, we provide a wealth of information through a unique window into the region. It’s done in English, so students get a feel for the Middle East while also obtaining an American education here in Egypt.”