Two Samford University faculty members, associate arts and sciences dean Rosemary Fisk and core curriculum adjunct professor Jeanna Westmoreland, will join representatives of nine other U. S. universities that will travel to Myanmar Feb. 20-March 4 to study higher education in the nation and explore partnership opportunities.
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is sponsoring the trip, which will visit universities, organizations and government entities in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw. The delegation of 26 educators and U. S. Embassy representatives is part of the IIE's initiative to help Myanmar rebuild its higher education capacity.
Dr. Fisk, an English professor, will be making her fifth trip to Myanmar in just over a decade. Dr. Westmoreland will make her third trip to the southeast Asia nation. They will join faculty members from other schools in speaking on a variety of higher education subjects.
Fisk noted that in Myanmar's new government, the Ministry of Education is now headed by civilians rather than military officers. The IIE group will discuss how strategic partnerships might help the country rebuild its higher education infrastructure after years of closed or suppressed educational systems.
"If the universities can begin educating graduates to compete according to international standards, many will choose to become teachers and bring the reforms to the secondary level within a very few years," said Fisk. "Thus, the ripple effect will impact the entire system."
The delegation also will explore formal institutional partnerships that might benefit the U.S. universities as well.
The IIE delegation comes on the heels of President Obama's historic trip to Myanmar in November of 2012 as the first American president to visit the nation, also known as Burma. Speaking at the University of Yangon, Obama said, "Now, your good Parliament has at last passed a resolution to revitalize this university and it must reclaim its greatness, because the future of this country will be determined by the education of its youth."
The IIE delegation reflects indications from both President U Thein Sein and President Obama that both countries are interested in increasing academic collaboration. In his inauguration speech last year, President Thein Sein pledged to improve education and seek foreign expertise to lift standards.
Samford is the only school from the South in the delegation. The other schools are American University, Arizona State, Ball State, Hawaii Pacific, Northern Illinois, Northern Arizona, the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and the University of Washington.
The IIE recently ranked Samford 13th out of the nation's top 40 master's-level institutions for the university's undergraduate participation in study abroad programs.