The U. of I. will solidify its relationship with National Taiwan University in November when a group of about 30 campus leaders travels there for a global issues forum titled, "Smart Cities, Healthy Cities."
The research universities, both highly ranked internationally, have had a symbiotic relationship for years, though much of the exchange has involved independent research collaborations.
The Nov. 3-4 forum in Taipei, the first of three scheduled, is the first to be officially co-sponsored by the two universities, and will include Urbana Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise; Ilesanmi Adesida, vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost; and Peter Schiffer, the university's vice chancellor for research.
"We are bringing together a group of truly outstanding faculty experts from both universities to address a fascinating constellation of interrelated issues, challenges and opportunities surrounding the quickly increasing urbanization of our world," Wise said. "It affords our faculty with the opportunity to identify opportunities for ongoing collaborations."
The forums will deal with a multitude of issues related to urbanization, including sustainable power, transportation, infrastructure, health and food.
"We have had a long-lasting web of connections with NTU, and we've got students who have gone back and forth," said Tim Barnes, the director of Illinois Strategic International Partnerships, which operates through the Office of the Associate Provost for International Affairs. "This forum is really a faculty-driven effort and the culmination of all of those collaborations."
In fact, there are more than 70 alumni on the faculty roster of NTU who earned their doctorates from the U. of I., and research collaborations have been established in several colleges, including the colleges of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; Applied Health Sciences; Business; Engineering; Fine and Applied Arts; Liberal Arts and Sciences; Social Work; and Library and Information Science.
William Sullivan, who holds professorships in landscape architecture, human and community development, and natural resources and environmental sciences, has worked with students and faculty members from NTU for many years.
He said he is looking forward to the forum as a way to expand work on the vitally important 21st-century topic of urbanization. A United Nations report this year noted that 54 percent of the world's population lives in cities, and that number will jump to 66 percent by 2050.
"The topic is hugely important," he said. "Cities are the context that we will live most of our lives in, which make them places that shape our opportunities, health and well-being."
He said the key to planning more sustainable and operational cities in the future is to never forget that "cities are for people.
"Sometimes we get so tied up in technology that we are not engaging one another," he said. "We have the capability to collect all kinds of data on human and environmental activities in cities, but we have to put it to good use."
He said he hopes the forum will deepen already-existing collaborations and lead to the discovery of new ones.
"I hope we will be able to identify the pressing questions facing cities in the future," he said. "One of the largest motivations is doing science that can be used and that has a world impact. All of us want to make an impact in the world."
Barnes said that's the idea behind the forums, with next year's event held on one of the U. of I. campuses. There also are plans to include peer-reviewed forum presentations in a comprehensive book addressing global issues.
Faculty from across campus already are engaging with the city of Chicago on issues of intelligent and sustainable urban development, Barnes said, and forum organizers are hopeful that collaborations with NTU will expand those interactions.
"We are very hopeful that big things happen as a result of these forums," Barnes said. "People have been coming out of the woodwork wanting to participate. There are a lot of synergies here that can be built on."
The U. of I. will sponsor an alumni reception while in Taipei, and events are scheduled that will feature talks by Taiwanese government leaders.