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Watson dean visits China with N.Y. delegation

Being part of a state delegation touring China was a productive experience for Krishnaswami “Hari” Srihari.

“(The trip) was a good means to look at different facets of Chinese society, from manufacturing to talking to people in government to talking to entrepreneurs,” said the dean of the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science. “I wanted to learn how (Chinese) universities work, get a snapshot on industry that focuses on green energy and get an idea about manufacturing in China.”

Srihari was the only academic member of the delegation that visited Beijing, Nanjing, Changzhou and Shanghai for nine days earlier this month. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo also took part in the trip. The rest of the delegation included state legislators, such as Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, and business representatives.

The trip was organized to commemorate 20 years of sister-state relations between New York state and the Jiangsu Province and to try to encourage investment from China to New York.

“The delegation had multiple objectives: cement the relationship between our state and Jiangsu province; look for inward investment; and enhance the academic interaction from a Binghamton University point of view,” said Srihari, who was visiting China for the first time.

The delegates not only attended “Invest in New York” sessions, but also had the opportunity to meet with government officials and entrepreneurs during their travels.

For example, the group met with representatives from TrinaSolar, one of China’s largest solar power manufacturers.  Srihari was able to put Binghamton University’s strengths in the spotlight.

“We talked to them about what New York had to offer and this gave me an
opportunity to talk about what Binghamton could offer in terms of technology,” he said.

“We have the infrastructure that can help a company interested in solar technology, given our initiatives in the Center for Autonomous Power and the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center.”

The talks also proved beneficial because state legislators learned about Binghamton’s solar-power projects, as well, Srihari said.

Srihari and the others visited Chinese universities, too: Nanjing University and the Changzhou Science and Education Town. The latter features five colleges, one university and 76,000 students in what is described as a “Demonstrative Higher Vocational Education Park.”

Industry-university interactions were of interest to Srihari, especially how businesses have established laboratories on the campuses.

“Researchers from academia and industry can work together,” he said. “And it’s not just one (industry): Multiple industries are investing in campuses.”

For Srihari, building relationships with international partners is necessary for the new world of today — and tomorrow. China is not only “a major player on the world stage,” he said, but the number of Chinese students on campus continues to grow.

“From Watson’s perspective, what we would like to do is partner with leading universities all over the globe,” he said. “We want to do that so our students are exposed to diversity.

“Our students must learn to work both independently and inter-dependently with people not only in America but across different time zones and different cultures,” he said. “There is a need for us to enhance the educational component of our students to ensure that we work with diverse academic institutions from different parts of the world.”

Srihari said he is unlikely to return to China soon, but he would like other faculty and staff members to visit with specific goals in mind so they can help shape the Watson School’s policies and initiatives.

“I believe having many people provide input will strengthen the path forward for us,” he said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08