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Stanford Report, May 6, 1998

Year-old Asia/Pacific Scholars Program: 5/98

19 Asia/Pacific Scholars mark first year of program


Stanford's year-old Asia/Pacific Scholars Program aims to create a core of future leaders with ties to the university who will help guide the course of the region during the 21st century.

"We are looking to present Stanford as the leading research university on the Pacific Rim," said development officer Steve Suda at an Asian Staff Forum meeting in Bechtel International Center on April 24.

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Modeled on Oxford University's Rhodes Scholarship, the program has brought 19 students from the region together for weekly seminars and discussions.

"Through the program I have gained a new perspective of the world," said A/P Scholar Evelina Yeung, an engineering student from Hong Kong. "I found there's no single correct way of thinking and behaving, and that a lot of the conflicts in this world are actually caused by misunderstandings about one another."

Since the fall quarter, subjects covered have included the impacts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam in Asia today. Professor Michael Boskin has discussed the making of U.S. economic policy and Professor Lawrence Lau has spoken on the background of Asian economic growth. A spring break trip to Washington, D.C., introduced students to the workings of U.S. government.

Selection to the Asia/Pacific Scholars Program requires confirmed admission to a Stanford graduate degree program. Currently enrolled graduate students may also apply. Scholars must be under 35 years of age at the time of matriculation. Program participation is in addition to the students' regular workload.

The first group of scholars includes Qizhi Luo, a law student who wants to help set up a legal aid system in China; Patrick Sagisi, a business school and engineering student and a three-time member of Guam's Olympic swimming team; and Jennifer Amyx, a political science student who studies Japan's political economy.

The program's organizers envision that participants will always remain A/P Scholars, a link similar to that maintained by Rhodes Scholars. "Twenty to 30 years from now, our hope is to have 500 to 1,000 scholars who would meet periodically," said Michel Oksenberg, program director and senior fellow at the Institute for International Studies.

Associate Director Julian Chang said that if a $50 million fund-raising goal is reached, the program plans to accommodate 25 students a year in a two-year program. So far, $10 million has been raised, allowing the program to offer full scholarships to five graduate students from China, and $5,000 honoraria to other students.

Students from China, India, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand, Guam, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States were selected last year based on their interest in public service, leadership potential and intent to work in the region. U.S. citizens were included, Chang said, "because we believe that America is inexorably intertwined with the Asia Pacific region."

Oksenberg said the challenge for him and Chang was to find a way to put a diverse group of people together and help them learn from one another.

"We wanted them to share their backgrounds and get to know each other," he said. "We wanted them to attain a level of cultural understanding that transcended the vast differences that separate the countries in the Asia Pacific region."

The program has started to achieve that, Oksenberg said. Leonard Lee, a computer scientist from Singapore, said he postponed his graduation from Stanford so that he could join the program. "What attracted me was [Stanford's] keen interest in and almost altruistic commitment to the region," he said. "I [am] very happy. You feel a very strong sense of involvement."

Impetus for the program was sparked in November 1993, on the eve of Gerhard Casper's first visit to Asia as university president. Before the trip, Suda said, several experts on campus briefed Casper.

"When we were brainstorming, that's when the notion of an 'Asia Rhodes Scholars' program came up," Suda said.

During the trip to Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Casper met with leaders from business, government and education. His conversations led to two observations, Suda said. Almost 50 years after World War II, Casper noted, people were still talking about topics related to the war, such as the legacy of comfort women (Korean women forcibly kept as prostitutes by the Japanese army), the reunification of North and South Korea, and control of the Taiwan Strait. Casper was also surprised by the level of nationalism throughout the region and how this shaped each country's views on broader issues. "As he traveled, [Casper] thought how great it would be to expose these future leaders [to one another] and to start looking at the Asia Pacific as an entire region," Suda said.

In Hong Kong, Casper explained his ideas to industrialist Larry Yung, executive director of China International Trust & Investment Corp. and the father of Frances Yung, a 1995 alumna. Furthermore, Yung's business associate, Henry Fan, is the father of Mandy Fan, class of 1999. Suda said that Yung was impressed by Casper's growing enthusiasm for his "Asia Rhodes Scholars" plan and pledged $5 million to support Chinese students. Additional funds have come from Casper's discretionary budget and from donations by alumni, including $1 million from Sthe tanford Alumni Club of Hong Kong, Bay Area residents of Asian descent and the Morris S. Smith Foundation, a Los Angeles-based educational charitable institution.

Next year's scholars will be announced during the last two weeks of May, Chang said. Almost 150 people, including about 80 applicants from China, are vying for 20 slots. To find out more about the program, log on to SR