Princeton moves close to strategic partnership with University of Tokyo
The University is finalizing a strategic partnership with the University of Tokyo as part of its efforts to expand global opportunities for its faculty and students. This is the third strategic partnership the University has formed with a foreign university this year, after solidifying ties with the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil and Humboldt University in Germany.
The University has been attempting to create these strategic partnerships with sites that already host faculty research collaboration, graduate student recruitment and undergraduate study abroad, according to Vice Provost of International Initiatives Diana Davies, who is also the secretary for the Council for International Teaching and Research. Though the University has not attempted to create campuses abroad — such as NYU’s in Abu Dhabi and Yale’s in Singapore — it is trying to expand its global presence in a manner consistent with the goals University President Shirley Tilghman outlined in her 2007 “Princeton in the World” report.
The CITR identified the University of Tokyo as a university with many points of connection last year, and over the summer it developed the strategic partner agreement.
The University already has three existing programs with the University of Tokyo that can serve as models for future department and program collaborations, according to history professor and CITR director Jeremy Adelman. These programs include collaborative research and exchange opportunities for faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students in astrophysics, East Asian Studies and the Wilson School.
“Faculty will say, what kinds of things can we do?” Adelman said. “Well, we’ve created three pilots as examples, and people can adapt them.”
When the agreement is finalized, a committee of both Tokyo- and Princeton-based faculty and administrators will invite departments and faculty from both universities to submit joint proposals for programs, using the three existing programs as models. Eventually, Adelman said he envisions the partnership agreement including formal summer courses, global seminars and embedded language programs.
The agreement builds upon years of specific department-led efforts at collaboration. In March 2010, President Tilghman signed an agreement with the president of the Japanese National Institute for Natural Sciences, an inter-university organization based in Tokyo, which already collaborated extensively with Princeton in the fields of astronomy and fusion.
According to University physics professor and Dean for Research A.J. Stewart Smith GS ’66, the purpose of the agreement is to look for further opportunities and provide logistical support while still allowing collaborations to grow based on student and faculty interests.
“If you’ve got two equal amplitudes in phase, you get four times the intensity. That’s what we want,” Smith said. “If you get two amplitudes [out of phase], you get zero intensity. Unless it’s natural, you’re not going to create a sum that’s greater than the parts.”
“It’s not something you impose from the top down, it’s just a mechanism the University has for enabling and enhancing connections that can develop naturally on common scholarly interests or educational interests,” said Ed Turner, astrophysics professor and former CITR faculty member.
Dean of the Graduate School of Science at the University of Tokyo Hiroaki Aihara, who has worked with Turner and other professors from Princeton’s astrophysics department, said he sees the strategic partnership as an opportunity to improve both research and undergraduate and graduate teaching at both universities.
While Aihara sees the implementation of an effective student exchange program for undergraduates as the most challenging aspect of the partnership because of language and cultural barriers, he also sees it as a central aspect of the agreement.
"I hope the students from Princeton and Tokyo will take advantage of this program and spend significant time at the Tokyo and Princeton programs, and vice versa," Aihara said.
Religion professor, Director of East Asian Studies and CITR member Stephen Teiser said the strategic partnership would allow students and faculty from the two institutions to maintain a connection beyond the limited interactions of one student studying abroad or one faculty member collaborating.
“Princeton’s philosophy — and I think it is the right one — is putting a structure in place that follows the suggestions of students and faculty,” Teiser said.
Adelman emphasized that the strategic partnership is not designed to restrict students and faculty to a specific site, but rather to provide resources at that site to encourage greater collaboration.
“We can’t dictate where they go, we just say here are the options, you design the content,” Adelman.
With the third largest economy in the world, a population of 100 million and a stable political situation with goals comparable to those of the United States, Japan presents a certain parallelism attractive for such an agreement, according to history and East Asian Studies professor Sheldon Garon. He noted that other countries might present interesting opportunities for collaboration but do not necessarily have the infrastructure to make a complete partnership realistic.
Despite the shared teaching and research priorities between the two universities, certain logistical challenges remain, such as the fact that the University of Tokyo is spread out among multiple schools, each with its own contact people. Additionally, the different academic calendars pose difficulties, with Tokyo’s school year starting in March.
Adelman said specific details on the bureaucratic side have slowed the process of getting the agreement signed but that he hoped the agreement would be signed in the next few weeks.
“The University of Tokyo, partly because of its decentralized structure, can take longer to work through these processes because there are perhaps more groups of people who have to approve things,” Davies said. “But I think we’re optimistic that by the spring we’ll have this all worked out with them.”