URI, Indonesia recognize 50-year partnership

KINGSTON, RI – June 23, 2022 – The University recently celebrated the 50th year of its partnership with the Republic of Indonesia in an event that included traditional dances, speeches by University and Indonesian representatives, and the awarding of certificates of completion to 15 exchange students from the island nation. The ceremonies opened with a traditional “Likok Pulo” welcome dance by URI’s Aceh exchange students.

Forty-five Indonesian government officials came to URI’s Kingston Campus for the recent event, from seven branches of Indonesian government and two national universities, some of whom remained for the one-week training on Blue Economy Valuation. Dozens more Indonesian officials attended by Zoom.

URI President Marc Parlange, left, and the Honorable Nova Iriansyah, governor of Aceh, smile during a plaque presentation. URI photo by Nora Lewis.

University representatives immediately followed up with meetings in person in Indonesia with each of those seven branches of the Indonesian government across the country, advancing the next five to ten years of planning for the URI partnership with Indonesia on the blue economy, climate change, clean water, and many other fields. 

“This partnership has been an exciting and rewarding opportunity for URI and the Republic of Indonesia, offering invaluable opportunities for research, learning, and teaching that have yielded tangible, real-world solutions to pressing local and global issues,” URI President Marc Parlange said. “I am grateful to everyone who has made this relationship possible, including champions at the national and local governmental levels. I am confident that the vast and rich ocean resources that we have in common with the Republic of Indonesia will continue to fuel important work in the Blue Economy for another 50 years, and I look forward to expanding on the successes of this collaboration.

HAPPY GROUP: URI President Marc Parlange, second row center, join students and officials
from Indonesia for a group photo. URI photo by Nora Lewis.

The Honorable Nova Iriansyah, governor of Aceh, called the event “an entry point for wider cooperation between the Indonesian government in the development of human resources in terms of the 15 exchange students. We look for improvements and hope for other fields, including the coastal and marine economy, environmental management, and climate change.”

Gellwynn Jusuf, chief of planners in the Ministry of National Development Planning, earned his master’s and doctorate at the University and said, “Rhode Island is the Ocean State, and Indonesia is a maritime nation. We have found a world class partner in the University of Rhode Island, which is ready to help guide us in our implementation of a blue economy strategy in this next decade of our national development. What we need now is an action-oriented plan that can be implemented in Indonesia. I look forward to further discussion on this topic.”

Robert O. Blake Jr., former U.S.ambassador to Indonesia, said, “I know of no other American university that has both such a long history in Indonesia, but also such an impressive breadth of programs going in both directions. Generations of Indonesian government officials have had the benefit of URI training. Likewise, URI students have had the unique opportunity to undertake countless study trips to Indonesia while URI has supported a wealth of research projects to study and support Indonesia’s oceans and coasts, its fisheries, all the while helping to build Indonesia’s capacity in higher education, which is the foundation of growth and development for every country.”

Brook Williams Ross, director of Education and Business Partnerships, Asia, spent 20 years working in Indonesia. He called the relationship “the bridge between the strength of URI and Indonesian institutions.” Ross said the memorandum of understanding came about after decades of Indonesia’s hardships existing under other ruling nations that sought to exploit the new nation. “In 1972, the U.S. State Department reached out to URI for its world leading marine affairs department to ask whether they could assist Indonesia with the development of marine law. The nation was comprised of 17,000 islands spanning 3,000 miles, but still was not recognized as in control of its waters. University professors and staff helped change that, by assisting them in preparing for the third United Nations conference, at which Indonesia was recognized as having full sovereignty over its territorial waters.

“Today, the U.S. and Indonesia continue to support URI’s partnership with the Indonesian government in their student exchanges which focus on things like developing marine and coastal economies, fisheries and aquaculture, building the framework for the archipelago’s first marine protected areas, managing sustainable fisheries, and managing the blue economy.”

Ross noted that URI professors, researchers and students have been in contact with every Indonesian province. “Local governments, NGO’s and people in this room have made lasting direct impacts to the lives of thousands of Indonesian officials, administrators, and educators, who in turn have benefitted millions of people in Indonesia. Dean Kirby, as well as more than 100 URI professors have been there working hard on issues like clean water and ocean engineering.

“Others who came to URI for their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees gained valuable skills and returned to Indonesia to establish many government organizations. These students have not only expanded work in areas like health, marine environments, aquaculture, and engineering, but also in nursing, pharmaceutical science, applied science and education.”

Ross said Brown University, Johnson and Wales University, and Roger Williams University, have now joined the collaborative effort.

“Our partnerships have spread throughout the archipelago” Ross said.

John Kirby, dean of URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, also shares a long-term relationship with the island nation. He recalled the early days: “It was a new democracy, full of people looking for that opportunity to excel. And since then, we’ve made many friends. We have developed a profound educational capacity though we are 11,000 miles apart. We looked at ways we could develop a mixed approach to education, by giving students the chance to earn a certificate and also to learn English. We hope to be able to expand those experiences beyond MESM (master of environmental science and management).

 We hope to bring students here and send ours there and provide them with the chance to see cultures in situ, and not just on TV or exported in a restaurant.

“Our goal is to expand, even if some of it is virtual.”

This release was written by Hugh Markey.