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IDPP Joins Historic U.S. Higher Education Delegation to Myanmar

IAPP-Myanmar delegation (group photo)IDPP/COTELCO Executive Director and American University (AU) Associate Professor Dr. Derrick Cogburn; Dean of AU School of Professional and Extended Studies Dr. Carola Weil; and Assistant Professor and Director of the AU ASEAN Studies Center Dr. Pek Koon Heng-Blackburn took part in a delegation of 10 U.S. universities traveling to Myanmar from 24 February – 1 March 2013 to learn more about the current state of higher education in Myanmar and explore potential partnership opportunities.

The delegation, which is part of the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s Myanmar higher education initiative that seeks to help the country rebuild its higher education capacity, was led by IIE President & CEO Allan Goodman and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Academic Programs Meghann Curtis. Representatives from the U.S. Embassy also joined the mission, which visited universities, organizations, and government entities in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.

IIE IAPP-Myanmar delegation and Deputy Minister of Education in Naypyidaw (group photo)This was the largest delegation of U.S. universities to travel to Myanmar. In addition to AU, participating universities included: Arizona State University, Ball State University, Hawaii Pacific University, Northern Arizona University, Northern Illinois University, Rutgers University, Samford University, the University of Massachusetts – Lowell, and the University of Washington.

Dr. Cogburn, Dr. Heng, and Dr. Weil at Myanmar temple site (photo)IIE selected AU because of the university’s long-standing commitment to the country, and its continued special relationship with Myanmar. In addition to the IDPP’s mission and work to create a cadre of disability policy leaders who contribute toward the vision of an ASEAN region that is inclusive, barrier-free, and rights-based, Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited the AU campus last fall to accept an honorary degree that was given to her in 1997 when the country’s ruling military junta would not allow her to leave the country. The historic visit to campus was during the activist’s first visit to the U.S. since being released from 15 years of house arrest and a day after meeting with President Obama and receiving the Congressional Gold Medal. AU also created and houses the first ASEAN Studies Center in the country.

The delegation reflected indications from Myanmar President U Thein Sein and U.S. President Barack Obama that both countries are interested in increasing academic collaboration. President Obama’s historic visit to Myanmar in November and the easing of U.S. export sanctions are among several recent actions demonstrating U.S. goodwill toward Myanmar.

Dr. Cogburn and Dr. Heng with Myanmar's Deputy Minister of Education (photo)Dr. Cogburn and other members of the delegation delivered lectures at a number of Myanmar universities. Dr. Cogburn’s presentations focused on the IDPP’s mission and work across the ASEAN region.

The delegation visited universities including Yangon University, Yangon Technological University, the Myanmar Institute of Theology, Dagon University, Myanmar Institute of Economics, and Mandalay University. These visits and networking opportunities were invaluable as the IDPP continues to expand its partnerships throughout the region.