President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
Princeton’s Global Scholars
October 21, 2009
In September we welcomed Professor Takao Someya from the University of Tokyo, a leader in the field of large-area organic electronics and the first of three distinguished Global Scholars to share their talents with our University this year. Joining us next month is Professor Yasushi Suto, one of the world’s pre-eminent cosmologists and an authority on extrasolar planets, also from the University of Tokyo, and arriving in March will be Professor Ge Zhaoguang, an expert on religion in medieval China and founding director of the National Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University. Of course, the presence of visiting faculty from overseas is hardly a new phenomenon at Princeton, but the Global Scholars Program is the first university-wide initiative to bring such men and women to campus with the explicit goal of strengthening Princeton’s international orientation.
Two years ago, I described in these pages the importance of developing a truly global vision for our University while preserving its unique American identity. As new technologies tie the world more closely together, breaking down barriers that once discouraged the free exchange of people, goods, and ideas, and as the number of nations working at the forefront of new knowledge grows, Princeton must establish connections with scholars and students from other countries and cultures as never before. To assist us in achieving this goal, and on the recommendation of a special faculty committee charged with framing our response to globalization, we created the Global Scholars Program, ably overseen by our newly established Council for International Teaching and Research.
Three aspects of this program stand out for me. The first is its inherent flexibility. Global Scholars will be encouraged to come and go over a three- to five-year period, varying the length of their stays from a few weeks to an entire academic year in order to maximize their effectiveness on both our campus and their own. Professor Someya, for example, will be with us on three different occasions this year, allowing him to fill his newly created chair at the University of Tokyo while collaborating closely—and on a recurring basis—with members of our faculty in the departments of electrical and chemical engineering and the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials. He will add an exciting dimension to an already exciting field, bringing with him prototypes of artificial skin and wireless power transmission sheets.
This leads me to a second advantage of the Global Scholars Program. By establishing a multi-year relationship with Princeton, our visitors will have a bigger impact on the life of our University than one-time visitors. Global Scholars will be expected to both teach and carry out research while they are with us. This spring, for example, Professor Ge will participate in the Department of East Asian Studies’ lunchtime colloquium, which brings together faculty and graduate students on a weekly basis, while also joining a faculty “research cluster” with a three-year mandate to re-examine historical understandings of East Asia between 1550 and 1800.
Global Scholars are more than an important resource for members of our University community, however. They are also a bridge that will allow both us and their colleagues back home to travel easily between our respective countries and institutions. We hope to establish what the provost and I have dubbed “a vigorous form of academic free trade, in which a robust import policy will go hand-in-hand with a robust export strategy.” Professor Suto embodies the kind of internationalism that the Global Scholars Program is designed to foster. Whether he is immersed in numerical cosmology or wide field galaxy surveys, he has looked to Princeton for partners, helping to ensure that Japanese and American astronomers will explore the mysteries of our extraordinary universe together. What’s more, he is bringing a graduate student with him, helping to seed the exchange of junior scholars, who will play a critical role in our larger quest to internationalize the University.
With the generous support of benefactors such as C. H. Tung P84, P87, P90, who paved the way for us to bring three of Asia’s foremost scholars to Princeton, we look forward to the day when we have as many as 15 Global Scholars at work on our campus and, just as importantly, on campuses around the world.