DC this week
Posted on September 14, 2010
I am in DC this week for a variety of things. Today included meetings at the Saudi Cultural Mission, a relationship that remains important to us with about 100 Saudi students on campus at any given time. I also had an appointment with the Syrian Embassy’s educational officer to discuss possible partnerships with Syrian universities.
I was surprised to discover that Cornell, Yale, Georgetown, Northeastern, MIT, U of Texas, U. of Utah, and U. of Florida all have programs in Syria. It is a country that is only now opening up more fully to the west and realigning itself in terms of regional politics. They are eager to forge more institutional collaborations and it is something I will discuss with the Academic Council.
The Embassy is in President Taft’s former home and was beautifully furnished with Arabic antique furniture and striking contemporary art. The Ambassador was an academic and this critically important posting was his first. He tells a great story about getting the call, much to his amazement given his lack of any foreign service experience, and then seeking out an old friend who had retired as an ambassador. His friend said to him: “You know the camel? It carries huge burdens and works tirelessly all day and sometimes all night, day after day, and then, maybe, finally, it will get to eat and drink. The life of an ambassador is similar, but only opposite.”
The real highlight so far has been my $13 dinner at ChinaExpress, the best and most authentic Chinese restaurant outside of China. This place is a hole — a brightly lit dungeon with chipped Formica tables and uncomfortable chairs packed in together. However, the food? Fabulous. Shanghai style dumplings that one eats whole so the broth explodes in the mouth. Noodles made by hand (in the front window of the place), twisted and spun and stretched the way I’ve only seen in China. This was the sort of place one sees all over China and Taiwan and had rave reviews from a variety of newspapers and others taped to the wall. Check it out at: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g28970-d450543-Reviews-Chinatown_Express_Restaurant-Washington_DC_District_of_Columbia.html.
Tomorrow I’ll be meeting Patty Lynott and Kathy Growney at Goucher College to see their much touted library. It’s all part of our year-long ramp up of long-range campus planning. Everyone is asking what it means to build a library today and Goucher’s answer to the question seems a provocative one. Take a look at: http://www.goucher.edu/x17081.xml.
On Thursday I will be part of a special meeting the Gates Foundation has convened to explore ways of improving college access and completion rates. The foundation retained McKinsey to identify schools that are doing innovative things and they winnowed down the list to the group of 14 or so that have been invited to this week’s meeting. Hard to say no the Gates Foundation, of course, and it should be interesting. Stay tuned!