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Conference boosts USC’s ties abroad

Daily Trojan article featuring the three-day USC Global Conference in Taiwan.

November 2, 2009

By Amanda Pillon
Originally published by the Daily Trojan on October 27, 2009.

USC deans, professors and faculty traveled to Taipei, Taiwan this week to meet with USC alumni from across Asia and discuss global issues at the three-day USC Global Conference, which begins Thursday.

The Global Conference, organized by the USC Office of Globalization, is held in a different part of Asia every other year and consists of three days of speeches and panel discussions about issues including health, energy, business and digital media.

“It’s all intertwined,” said Adam Powell, the USC vice provost for globalization and this year’s emcee for the conference. “The discussions are interdisciplinary.”

The conference acts as a showcase for the latest work from USC’s faculty and researchers, as well as a networking forum for alumni in Asia.

One of the main goals of the event is something that Powell calls “friend raising” — strengthening ties among the Trojan Family as well as building relationships with people from the country where the conference is being held.

“USC wants to reach out with its alumni, so we’re looking for the topics that will be important to them,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, the director of USC Institute for Global Health, who will be one of the speakers at the Global Conference. “We want to engage the alumni and others in something that will make a difference.”

According to Powell, the conference is also a useful opportunity for the university to build contacts in the region.

“[We get] more research partnerships, opportunities for student internships in Asia, and greater activity overall,” Powell said. “We’re connecting with partners in different universities, government, industry, and we’re increasing opportunities in internships.”

The Global Conference was first held nine years ago in Hong Kong as a Marshall School reunion. Since then, it has developed and grown into a gathering for all of USC’s schools.

“We wanted to make it more of a platform for USC to do its best, and to do that we had to make it interdisciplinary,” Powell said.

The conference is always held in Asia, demonstrating the university’s commitment to the region, said Jeffrey Cole, the director of USC’s Center for the Digital Future.

“The future rests strongly on Asia, and this is an opportunity for USC to showcase cutting-edge work done on its campus,” said Cole, who is a speaker at the conference.

As part of the conference, Samet will be leading a discussion on global health issues focusing on global epidemics from H1N1 to SARS. Cole plans to speak about the changes coming from traditional media and the future of music, newspapers and television.

Other panels, which draw from speakers across the region as well as USC deans and faculty, will touch on topics including the changing economic climate and the global outlook for energy.

The event is entirely set up by USC, drawing on organization from a number of USC offices, including the USC office in Taipei, and is primarily attended by alumni in the region.

“Each of the individuals coming pays hundreds just to register,” Powell said. “USC doesn’t make any money, but they only lose a little. Attendance is so good this year we might not lose anything.”

Powell said more than 600 people were willing to pay for registration and hotel fares for this year’s conference, up from the 450 who attended in 2007. The uptick has caused organizers to consider looking for a larger venue for future conferences.

“It’s been quite a surprise, especially because of the global economy. We expected it to go down… Alumni are simply coming out in larger numbers,” Powell said. “It’s proven more successful than anyone imagined.”

According to Clayton Dube, the associate director of the USC US-China Institute, the record attendance may be partly due to the fact that the region is the home to the largest percentage of USC’s current foreign students. Currently, 1,187 students from China, 625 students from Taiwan and 244 students from Hong Kong and Macau attend USC.

Cole said the conference is ultimately more than just a get-together for alumni and Asian leaders.

“The Global Conference energizes the USC community,” Cole said. “It demonstrates that USC isn’t just a school. It has become a global entity.”