University Partners with American and Indonesian Universities

ANN ARBOR, MICH., July 15, 2011 – The Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) at the University of Michigan 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,” said Allen Hicken, associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. “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.” said U-M student Carrie Burgess 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.”

The University of Michigan 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, visit their study tour blog at

Center for Southeast Asian Studies
The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Michigan International Institute emerged in the fall of 1999 from the former Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, which was established in 1961.  One of the largest programs devoted to this region in the United States, the center seeks to promote a broader and deeper understanding of Southeast Asia, its people, and their cultures. For more information, contact the center at (734) 764-0352 or visit

University of Michigan International Institute
The University of Michigan International Institute houses 18 centers and programs focused on world regions and global themes. The institute develops and supports international teaching, research, and public affairs programs to promote global understanding across the campus and to build connections with intellectuals and institutions worldwide. For more information, visit

University Record Article, August 15, 2011