Dean's Blog

Pacific Diplomacy

Share this

Early this year I wrote about a trip to Thailand and Indonesia to meet with several of our alumni from the military community in both countries as well as investigate university partnerships. Internationalization of our campus and programs remains one of the five priority areas in the Norwich strategic plan for both undergraduate residential programs and our online degree programs. I recently returned to continue work in those countries and on a side note seemingly picked a great time to be away; a late-winter storm blanketed central Vermont with notable snow fall and unseasonably cold weather.

As I write I am somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on the return trip after successful visits to both countries regarding development of new programs, visits to Chulalongkorn University, and meetings with several alumni. Developing international programs and attracting students to Norwich University is important at all levels given the increasing globalization of our economy and centrality of cultural competency to business and international security in a technologically mediated world. Significant opportunities exist for new business development, employment and economic development world-wide. It is such an exciting time to study and learn with a much broader perspective than was possible in the “good old days” (e.g. pre-laptop!)  when I was in graduate school.

I had the opportunity to attend the third annual Jakarta International Defense Dialog (JIDD), sponsored by the Indonesian government and coordinated by the Indonesian Defense University (IDU). The theme of the conference this year was Defense and Diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific Region with a variety of plenary and topical panels drawing military, government and NGO speakers from the ASEAN nations (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) as well as around the world, including Europe and the United States. The underlying benefit of a conference like this is that it facilitates communication and relationship building across government and military representatives who are often share similar responsibilities in their respective countries. Relationships are the building blocks of diplomacy and molecules of stabilization in any environment; it is much easier to resolve emergent problems through dialog with acquaintances and friends than otherwise. This is also the value of international exposure and experiences in education and something I have come to appreciate as an important dimension of education.

A wide range of topics were discussed at the conference, which was kicked off with plenary speeches by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of the Democractic Republic of Timor Leste. A variety of panel presentations focused on topics such as the new geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region, US perspectives discussed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, evolving threats and challenges in the region, maritime challenges and management of porous borders. I found the discussion to be stimulating and enjoyed learning more about the region through the lens of participants living and managing the challenges. I am interested in learning about the work our students are doing around and about this region and hope that Norwich might be able to participate in some way in the next JIDD. Let me know if you have some interesting work focusing on this region.

The next stop was a brief visit to Thailand to meet with the Royal Thai Air Force Academy and cyber command about enrolling additional cadets at Norwich and developing cyber-security education/training for their forces. Coincidental to our trip was the cyber attack on South Korea, which generated discussion in the region and world-wide attention to underscore the evolving nature of asymmetric warfare in the cyber domain.  We had some great discussions and hope to provide coursework that will supplement the Air Force program there at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, particularly drawing on the experience Norwich has gained over many years working in this domain as a joint NSA and DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. It is worthy of note that the two highest ranking faculty members of the Royal Thai Air Force Academy are Norwich University graduates! 

I’ll be touching down soon and closer to the U.S. east coast time zone and what I am sure will be a stack of new emails awaiting me. I guess it’s time for all of us to get back to our studies!

Hockey Puck Update. I may have been in the southeast Pacific region but that didn’t stop the snow from falling in Vermont, or mercury from plunging. Despite the start of maple sugar season, the arrival of spring has been put on hold and the snow pile is still quite high. No sign of the puck is likely for a while!