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Watson collaborates on Asian exchange

By : Sarah Lifshin

President Lois B.DeFleur and Dean Huynh Ngoc Phien of the Asian Institute of Technology sign an agreement to explore potential collaborations and possible degree programs for MS and PhD students through the Watson School of Engineering & Applied Science
Binghamton University has signed memoranda of understanding with two South and Southeast Asian universities to create exchange programs for graduate engineering students.

The agreements are just the first of several collaborative efforts that the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science plans with universities throughout South Asia. Preliminary discussions are taking place with three other schools. President Lois B. DeFleur recently signed an agreement with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) during a visit by the Bangkok university’s Dean Huynh Ngoc Phien, to discuss potential collaborations and degree programs for MS and PhD students.

Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari said the collaborations could lead to dozens of students from several Asian regional universities conducting engineering research and coursework at Binghamton.

“AIT is an excellent school and as a group we are very interested in this,” said Srihari, chair and professor of the Systems Science and Industrial Engineering Department and director of electronics manufacturing research and services. “These are universities that we felt would be great for BU to be associated with.”

In September, the University signed an agreement with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, India, to explore graduate and undergraduate programs.

For nearly a year, Srihari, professors Nagen Nagarur and Susan Lu and project assistant Monice DeGennaro have been working to create collaborations with a handful of universities. Srihari said Watson ultimately hopes to develop agreements with about eight academic institutions.

While AIT students would not receive a degree from Binghamton, they could transfer credits back to their home university. Subject to securing external funding, Binghamton students could also study at AIT and faculty would have the opportunity for exchanges. The University hosted its first AIT research student last spring. BU is also researching the possibility of offering distance education classes through the Internet.

“The Watson School is delighted with its new exchange agreement with the Asian Institute of Technology, and looks forward to additional agreements with universities in that region,” said Watson Dean Charles R. Westgate. “We look forward to close collaboration in research and education that may be beneficial to both institutions, and to our industrial partners who have located manufacturing facilities in this rapidly developing region.”

While the agreement with the Birla Institute is not identical to that of AIT, Srihari said both would ultimately have similar exchange programs. The school is among the top five engineering schools in India. Educators are also working with Anna University in Chennai, India, and Srihari expects an agreement to be signed within the next month. Discussions are also taking place with three universities in China and schools in Thailand.

Collaboration with overseas universities is not new to Watson, which currently works with universities in Germany.

Srihari said the exchange programs could eventually lead to joint-degree programs, similar to SUNY’s new program with universities in Turkey. “We are just going to a different geographical direction,” Srihari said. “We (this group) have just been focusing primarily on Asia and Southeast Asia.”

Beginning this fall, students in Turkey are enrolled in programs that will allow them to earn diplomas from their Turkish institution, as well as from SUNY.

“The underlying concept is an international collaboration, which in this world of globalization, is extremely important for us from an educational perspective. Our students need to understand the effect of globalization on their curriculum and also the economy,” Srihari said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08