A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

UC Merced Forges International Connection with Campus in Nepal

January 27, 2015
What is KU?
In this instance, it doesn’t refer to the University of Kansas or a protein involved with DNA repair. Nor does it stand for the element kurchatovium or the abbreviation for the Krebs Unit (you can look those last two up). 
For me, KU is Kathmandu University, a fast-growing and highly respected university in Dhulikhel, Nepal. Established in 1991, KU is a private, four-year university — something of a rarity in Nepal. 
Like UC Merced, KU has grown rapidly while making every effort to create and maintain a high-quality educational experience for undergraduate and graduate students. Included among the schools and programs the campus offers are science, management, engineering, biotechnology, arts, and human and natural resources. 
I’m writing about KU because that campus and UC Merced will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in late February. 
In this case, the MOU is an expression of mutual interests, shared intellectual goals (which, in the long run, might include student and faculty exchanges), jointly-designed research programs and other projects. 
If you are wondering why KU and how all this came about, here are some of the key elements that combined to make this happen: a solar panel in Samdzong, Nepal; a desire by UC Merced’s senior leadership to develop an international reputation for the campus; and the recent installation of a Blum Center at our campus.  
During one of my research trips to Nepal, I had an opportunity to see a solar panel in Samdzong, which was dead as a doornail. But it got me thinking about how it got there, whether it could be repaired (not likely) and what UC Merced — with its strong focus on solar power — could do in a place like Samdzong and more widely, Nepal. 
From there, I searched for strong academic programs in Nepal that might be interested in what we can offer, and thus found KU. I got former School of Engineering Dean Dan Hirleman interested in the idea, and together we visited KU and found there was potential for collaboration. 
All universities seek international partners. The more established UCs have many partners at some of the most prestigious universities in the world. We see our partnership with KU as a first step in building bridges to other nations with universities that are appropriate to UC Merced’s scale and size. 
We have many overlapping interests with them, and this MOU will help effectively channel these interests. 
Finally, as part of the MOU, we have partnership possibilities with the UC Merced's Blum Center For Developing Economies
Founded in 2013 through the generosity of UC Regent Richard C. Blum, the center is an interdisciplinary campus effort to explore new ideas, technologies and services that will benefit the lives of the least prosperous people of the San Joaquin Valley.
We talk about our Blum Center within the framing of “Global California.” That is, many problems seen in developing nations, such as Nepal, can also be seen in our own backyard. It makes sense, then, to explore ways in which projects that benefit the people of the San Joaquin Valley can be put to work in Nepal and vice versa. 
So, that’s the “what” and “why” of KU. I think good things are going to come as a result of our relationship with them. 
It will take effort from all parties on both sides to bring this to fruition, and I like our chances. 
And, just maybe, I’ll get that solar panel in Samdzong fixed or, better yet, replaced with one of Roland Winston’s wonderful solar creations.