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Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Beijing Normal University
Beijing, China

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Good afternoon Vice Minister Zhang, President Zhong, Madame Liu, Secretary Spellings, Assistant Secretary Powell, Assistant Secretary Maddox, distinguished guests, faculty, and students.

It is a pleasure and an honor to speak on behalf of our delegation of U.S. university presidents. I read, on your Web site, that Beijing Normal University is committed to “developing as a globally influential university.” The university of which I am president — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — is committed, as well, to being a university with “global reach and global impact.”

This continues our tradition as the oldest technological university in the United States — offering degrees at the bachelor’s, master’s, and PHD levels — in engineering, the sciences, management, architecture, and the humanities, arts, and social sciences. We have a particular research focus in nanotechnology, biotechnology, computation, and information technology, energy and the environment, media and the arts, and entrepreneurship.

I know that the sciences are a focus of investment and growth here at Beijing Normal University, which has become a national base for scientific research. I know that China has produced many of the world’s great scientists. I know that infrastructure development is of critical importance here in China. I know that China has a strong space program. Our graduates of Rensselaer have designed and built some of the world’s greatest infrastructure — including the first suspension bridge, the completion of the Panama Canal, the U.S. Transcontinental Railroad, and major infrastructure in South America. A previous President of Rensselaer ran the Apollo Program which put man on the moon, and our graduates helped to design and build the Mars Rovers. We have produced many great scientific and technological leaders, including a number of Chinese origin. On our faculty we have Professor Xi Chang Zhang, an expert in terahertz science, who is a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. We have a lot in common.

As leaders in higher education at United States colleges and universities, our delegation believes deeply in the transformational power of education to unleash human talent and to realize the collective potential inherent in our people.

Our world has become a connected, inter-dependent world during our lifetime. The resolution of the multiple challenges which we all face rests upon collaborative research, and innovation. Energy security is one example. It is, perhaps, the greatest global challenge of our time. Every nation faces this challenge. China faces this challenge, as its economy rapidly develops. True energy security rests upon redundancy of supply and diversity of source. It requires global solutions, which can be applied nationally and locally.

This, in turn, requires innovation, and innovation rests solely upon a skilled human workforce. Indeed, innovation is imperative to address all of the key global challenges including energy security, health, the environment, clean water, and food production. Global research partnerships will provide multidisciplinary approaches to meet these challenges. Universities are especially suited to be a base of such partnerships.

Because we live in a connected world, it is essential that all universities provide students with international experience, as we prepare them to operate in the global marketplace and to participate in collaborative research and innovation.

We must create “opportunity pathways” for student exchange by developing partnerships between our institutions. Rensselaer long has offered high-end education for students from around the world. Currently, there are 726 full-time international students at Rensselaer. About 250 are from China. Rensselaer, also, has a number of research and teaching partnerships in universities in China. Our relationships with Chinese universities and industries are broad and deep. They also are unique.

Let me tell you about one of them. We have a seventeen-week certificate program in “Leadership for Innovation and Growth in the Energy Industry.” It is offered jointly by General Electric Corporation and Rensselaer. The objective is to strengthen the leadership and management skills of nineteen engineers and managers from the China Three Gorges Project Corporation, who are now at Rensselaer. Overall, this program combines General Electric’s “best management practices” with Rensselaer expertise in innovation, technology, and management. Participants in the program gain a better understanding of how and why business is conducted in certain ways, and develop the critical management skills needed to lead technologically intensive enterprises. Rensselaer also has a number of research and teaching partnerships with universities in China. Rensselaer is expanding its own curriculum to require a global experience for all of our students.

Just as all of us here — university and college presidents — will encourage our students to study at your great universities and others around the world, we invite you and your students to come to United States universities for your own global experience. We must work together to prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, and other professionals, who will become the innovators and leaders of the future. It is essential that they all be global citizens with multicultural sophistication and shared experiences.

We have a great deal to learn from each other, and a great deal to offer each other. We — the presidents here — represent the rich spectrum of opportunity in the United States for students from China. We cover community colleges, liberal arts colleges, research universities, large and small, public and private. Our delegation is here to welcome and encourage increased collaboration, partnerships, and exchanges between United States colleges and universities and institutions of higher education here in China.

Because of who we are and what we represent, we look forward to strengthening and expanding U.S.-China higher education relationships for mutual benefit.

Thank you very much.

Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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