IU President McRobbie concludes historic and productive trip to Turkey
Meeting with president of Turkey caps busy week of activities that result in new partnership agreements with nation’s top universities, renewed ties with IU Turkish alumni
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie concluded the first official visit by a standing IU president to Turkey since 1955, wrapping up a week of productive meetings with educational, business and government leaders, as well as with members of IU’s two Turkish alumni chapters.
On Saturday, Sept. 27, McRobbie met in Istanbul with the recently elected president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Joining them were two of Erdoğan’s three children who are graduates of IU, daughters Esra and Sümeyye.
Esra Erdoğan and her youngest brother, Bilal, both earned bachelor’s degrees from IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, while Sümeyye is a graduate of IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. President Erdoğan, who was sworn in as president last month after more than a decade as prime minister, and his wife, Emine, have both visited IU’s Bloomington campus in the past.
Later Saturday evening, McRobbie hosted a reception for IU Turkish alumni, where he presented the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion to IU alumnus Erdal Yildirim, the general manager of the Vehbi Koc Foundation, in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in nonprofit management and philanthropy over his career in Turkey and around the globe. The Vehbi Koc Foundation, where McRobbie attended a meeting earlier in the week, is one of Turkey’s largest non-governmental charitable organizations. It aims to support the country’s development through grants to support programs in education, healthcare and culture.
The Benton Medallion is given to individuals who have achieved a level of distinction in public office or service and have exemplified the values of IU.
“Few U.S. institutions of higher education have been as historically active and engaged in Turkey as Indiana University,” McRobbie said. “For more than 70 years, IU has been one of the nation’s premier destinations for the study of Turkish and Turkic languages and the history and culture of this dynamic nation that, with its strategic location connecting several regions of the world, will continue to play a vital role in international affairs.
“Our meetings in Istanbul and in Ankara have been extremely productive, positioning us to substantially enhance our already strong presence in Turkey, identify promising new exchange opportunities for our students and faculty to study, teach and conduct research overseas, and reconnect with our many successful Turkish alumni. Our Turkish alumni are exceptional ambassadors for IU through their passion for the university and the major contributions they continue to make to the cultural, economic and political life of modern-day Turkey.”
As a result of the trip, IU formalized new partnership agreements with two of Turkey’s top-ranked universities and strengthened connections to several others. The university also explored opportunities to open a third global gateway office, which would serve as a central location for IU activities in Turkey, including conferences, meetings, receptions, symposia and workshops. (The other two IU gateway facilities are in Beijing and just outside New Delhi.)
On Sept. 23, McRobbie signed a Mevlana agreement with Boğaziçi University of Istanbul. This agreement is part of a Turkish governmental program to provide funding for student and faculty exchanges between Turkey's higher education institutions and their counterparts around world.
In recent years, IU and Boğaziçi University have developed a number of relationships between faculty and research programs in a variety of areas, including anthropology, Turkish studies and philanthropic studies.
On Sept. 25, in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, McRobbie formalized the university’s partnership with Middle East Technical University by signing an agreement of friendship and cooperation. Since its inception as a state university in 1956, METU, which has more than 24,000 students, has developed into one of Turkey’s most competitive universities, and it is widely recognized as the nation’s leading university in terms of depth and breadth of international ties and the amount of funds generated from international research projects.
While in Ankara, McRobbie visited another IU partner, Ankara University, the first higher education institution founded in the Turkish Republic. Ankara University is a partner in the prestigious Turkish Flagship Program at IU, the only federally funded program in this area.
He also met with senior leaders and faculty at TOBB University of Economics and Technology, a 10-year-old private university and the first university in Turkey to offer cooperative education combining classroom education with practical business experience.
TOBB is Turkey’s highest legal entity representing the private sector, including all local chambers of commerce, industry and maritime, as well as commodity exchanges. Its membership totals 1.4 million companies.
Joining McRobbie on the historic trip were IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret and IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie.
While in Ankara, McRobbie met with members of Turkey’s national higher education board (YÖK), officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and U.S. Consul General Charles F. Hunter to discuss new developments at the university, including its recently established School of Global and International Studies, and the university’s goals for expanding its presence in the country and surrounding region. McRobbie also hosted a reception for IU alumni living and working in the city.
For decades, students and scholars have come to IU from Turkey to pursue educational opportunities and collaborate with IU faculty. Turkey consistently ranks among the top 10 nations of origin among IU's international students, and many IU students continue to engage in overseas study in a country that bridges Europe and Asia and, today, is the major economic, political and military power in the region.