Report from the McDonnell Academy Presidents’ Forum

Leaders from many of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy participated in the 6th McDonnell symposium on Addressing Global Challenges.

By Melody Yunzi Li, McDonnell Scholar from Arts & Sciences: Comparative Literature (PhD)

One of the coolest things about being a McDonnell scholar is to have  close-up contact and connection with institutional leaders, presidents, provosts, and vice-chancellors of the universities.

The McDonnell International Scholars Academy symposium not only allows students to interact with professors and school leaders from their institutions, but also gives us a chance to know more about the administrative functioning of the Academy partners. The presidents’ forum at the symposium gave us such a chance to know more about how the universities function.

Presidents answered questions regarding the trends of research, the role of the university in pushing forward critical research and what the university would do to equip graduate students with global leadership abilities.

The president from Chulalongkorn University, Bundhit Eua-arporn said that a University’s main task is to prepare human capital to be responsible for society, to the region and global arena. The trends discussed in the symposium, including energy, food, water, environment, health would be the key trends in research in his mind. And he aims to prepare students with broader knowledge in order to deal with the challenges ahead of us.

The vice chancellor from the University of Hong Kong, Peter William Mathieson, advised that the key to dealing with the current challenges is to think outside the box, and mentioned an example of the flushing salt water in Hong Kong. He feels the trend of research right now focuses on social sciences and engineering. He brought up an interesting change in demographics in aging population—that the lack of 18-year olds right now in HK causes universities to compete for students.

The president from Seoul National University, Nak-In Sung, emphasized that students have to have passion and compassion.

The vice-chancellor from the University of Queensland, Peter Høj, said the role of university is to engage with democracy, create information and allow individual departments to develop collaboration.

This symposium is the microcosm of what the universities set goals for and strive to develop, and I hope it will continue to move forward.

Read more from the McDonnell Scholars.