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Week of August 15, 2011

U-M partnership to pioneer new study abroad program

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) has spearheaded a new study abroad opportunity in partnership with Lehigh University of Bethlehem, Pa., and Gadjah Mada University of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The program is the first new exchange opportunity resulting from the 2009 Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Indonesia. The partnership is a long-term commitment by Presidents Obama and Yudhoyono to broaden, deepen and elevate bilateral relations between the world’s second- and third-largest democracies. It includes $165 million in funding over a five-year period to support higher education collaborations between the United States and Indonesia.

“This partnership has opened new doors of cooperation between students, faculty and university administrators,” says Allen Hicken, associate professor of political science and director of CSAES. “Indonesia is the largest Muslim democracy in the world and a very diverse nation, in terms of cultures, religions, and languages. These factors make it an important partner for the United States.”

Students from all three universities spent a month together exploring issues of religious pluralism in democratic societies. The first two weeks of the program were held in Yogyakarta where students visited a nonprofit organization focused on civil education as well as places of worship including an Islamic boarding school and a Catholic seminary.

The group spent the final two weeks of the program in the United States. They explored religious communities and nonprofits near Ann Arbor. Later, they traveled to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., where they visited historical and cultural landmarks including the Liberty Bell and the new Islamic cultural center near the site of the former World Trade Center.

“I was given the chance to explore another country in extraordinary ways and then given the same opportunity in my own country. It’s really amazing when you reflect on how much of your own country’s history and culture remains unfamiliar to you,” U-M student Carrie Burgess says of the study tour. “Until this program, I really didn’t have an understanding of what religious pluralism meant in America, let alone an appreciation for it.”

U-M is one of five U.S. universities selected by the Institute for International Education (IIE) to form a working group on educational exchange between the two countries. This summer’s study tour was funded by a seed grant from IIE, as well as a grant from the U-M International Institute, which houses CSEAS.

To learn more about the students’ experiences, read their study tour blog at



Mary Bagwell, laundry feeder folder, U-M Health System Laundry Services, on the key to great spaghetti: “You add a little bit of sugar or a little bit of mint to take out the bitterness.”


William Faulkner’s Artifacts of Authorship exhibit, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Special Collections Library

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