Ahlburg leads admissions summer tour of East Asia

President of the university Dennis Ahlburg led a Trinity delegation on a tour of East Asian cities this past summer, from May 25 to June 5. The trip was conducted to bolster university recruitment, connect with alumni and foster existing exchange agreements with foreign universities.

The visit is Ahlburg’s second to East Asia,  his first occurring in 2011. Visited cities were Delhi, Shanghai and Bangkok, with Shanghai serving as the sole repeat location from the initial tour. Ahlburg did not attend a schedule stop in Singapore due to an illness. A greater emphasis on recruiting and marketing of Trinity differentiated this trip.

Ahlburg stressed the importance of sending the university’s top figure overseas, particularly when visiting in Asian countries.

“It is significant for the number one person to go there,” Ahlburg said, “because it shows great respect and the seriousness of our intentions.”

According to Ahlburg, Trinity’s diverse student population gives the campus a richness that is a significant and permanent part of the university. It adds not only to educational experiences, but also to social interactions as well.

“A Trinity education is holistic and demonstrates an openness to the points of view of others,”  Ahlburg said. “Part of my own education has been through travel, particularly in Latin America, where I had not been before our 2012 trip.”

Eric Maloof, director of international admissions, also cited the importance of having a diverse student body and the value it adds to a Trinity degree.

“It is our obligation,” Maloof said, “to create a campus community that is representative of the world students are entering. Trinity’s approach to international recruiting is long-term and has developed in a healthy way over the last decade.”

While in Shanghai, Ahlburg visited Jiao Tong University, which is frequently regarded as the MIT of China. Trinity shares an exchange relationship with the college where students engage in a six-week program in public policy. Ahlburg gave a guest lecture to the program on global warming and environmental protection.

Stephen Field, J.K. and Ingrid Lee professor of Chinese and co-director of the EAST program, were in Shanghai when Ahlburg delivered his lecture.

“Chinese graduate students and Trinity undergrads participated in the class,” Field said. “The Chinese were amazed that the president of a university was visiting and lecturing. This gives credibility for future relationships.”

The summer program, Dante Suarez, professor of business administration, led provides students with credits in business, urban studies, political science and Chinese. Field said that the associate dean at Jiao Tong hopes to eventually bring his students to Trinity, where professors would give classes about San Antonio. Trinity students would then accompany them back to Shanghai for the start of the summer program.

Senior Bryan Stiverson participated in the program and was in attendance for Ahlburg’s talk.

“It was interesting because Dr. Ahlburg used examples from China and the United States,” Stiverson said. “The U.S. is in kind of an awkward position when trying to police China on environmental regulations because of America’s own history with industrialization.”

Stiverson noted the ability to correspond one-on-one with Chinese students and the unique position to learn their perspective.

“They are very gung ho and definitely want China to protect its environment,” Stiverson said.

The multi-purpose trip is part of an alternation between East Asia and Latin America, where Trinity draws heavily for its international population. 67 different countries are currently represented.

According to Maloof, Ahlburg’s visit is useful from an admissions standpoint because it provides context to international students and helps them envision Trinity.

“It is about contextualizing where they fit,” Maloof said. “This can be something like the number of flights they have to take to reach San Antonio or what the city is like, as many students do not see our campus before setting foot on it for the first time come fall.”

While Trinity’s current first year class contains 11 percent international students, Maloof calls 10 percent a comfortable proportion and says the university goes where there is awareness or an appreciation of who Trinity is as a liberal arts school. Trinity developed the current strategy for international recruitment under president John Brazil.