UST Student Delegation Meets Taiwan’s President
To meet with a nation’s president is a great honor. This is an honor 14 students from the University of St. Thomas Center for International Studies experienced when they met with Taiwan's president, Mr. Ma Ying-jeou on Jan. 9 in recognition of the successful educational and cultural exchanges between UST and Taiwan. The UST students were led by the Center director, Dr. Hans Stockton, an East Asia expert and long-time Taiwan specialist who has led such delegations since 2007 as part of a course he teaches on contemporary Taiwan.
The group was joined by more than 50 Taiwanese alumni of the Center's annual summer program of American and Global Studies and Don Wang, a member of the University’s Board of Directors. The AGSC is a partnership between the Center and the Overseas Community Affairs Commission in Taipei that introduces Taiwan university students to American history, culture and foreign policy.
After greeting each student individually, Ma praised the efforts of Dr. Stockton at promoting US-Taiwan economic, cultural and educational ties and emphasized the importance of student exchange for building people-to-people bridges.
"To be greeted by a sitting head of state is a great honor for my students and wonderful recognition of the University of St. Thomas," Stockton said. "To have an hour of President Ma's time is testament to the distinction of the Center and more than three decades of hard work by our faculty, staff, students, and community friends.
Abigail Kvinge, a junior environmental studies major, was struck by how open and hospitable the Taiwan people were during the two-week stay.
"I never felt out of place because everyone I encountered was so welcoming,” Kvinge said.
Dr. Stockton delivered greetings from University of St. Thomas president, Dr. Robert Ivany, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Stockton emphasized the importance of educational exchanges for building human relationships and developing the human person. He went on to point out that the undergirding moral code in Confucian societies parallels that in Judeo-Christian societies and that intense immersion programs help students understand that our similarities are as prominent as our differences.
During the student delegation visit to Taiwan, students called upon officials in several central government ministries, think tanks and political parties. In addition students were introduced to historical and cultural sites in Taipei, Tainan and Kaohsiung.
Johnny Halliburton, a senior international studies major on his fourth trip to Taiwan, was most impressed by a luncheon hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"I sat next to an official who had just recently served as Taiwan's liaison to the American Congress,” Halliburton said. “It was great to hear firsthand stories of how Washington, D.C.-Taipei relations are maintained."
Each student received generous scholarship support from the Center's friends in the Taiwanese-American community. The Center and the University are grateful for this continued support of the Taiwan Study Abroad Program.
Jaqueline DeLeon, a senior international studies and development major understands the importance of such gifts.
"Without this support, many students would not be able to afford to participate,” DeLeon said. “Also, the community sponsors play an important role in providing our group access to high level decision-makers."
In addition to political and social visits, the students also enjoyed cultural events, such as celebrating New Years Eve in Taipei. It was then that Danielle Gohdes, a junior international development major, was struck by the orderly nature of a city as populated as Taipei.
“The mass transportation was incredibly efficient, clean, and the people were very respectful to each other,” Gohdes said. “During New Year's Eve, more than one million people gathered at Taipei 101 for a fireworks display. Within two hours after midnight, all one million people had disbursed via mass transportation."
The Center for International Studies at UST, founded in 1981, is a pioneering program in international studies in the American southwest and the oldest program of its type in the state of Texas. The Center provides majors in international studies and international development, manages the UST Study Abroad Program, hosts the Social Entrepreneurship Program and Distinguished Diplomat Lecture, and conducts significant local and international outreach.