Sunday, July 1, 2012

Welcome to our honored guests, to my University of Iowa colleagues, to family and friends, and, most especially, to our graduates. It is my great pleasure to share with you this once-in-a-lifetime occasion, and it is my extraordinary privilege to speak with you here today in Hong Kong.

Any commencement in higher education is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of dreams, a fulfillment based on discipline and hard work. I know that you have made enormous sacrifices, in many ways, to pursue your dreams. But we also all know that many people have made this day possible. You could not have pursued those dreams without the support, encouragement, and sacrifices of your teachers, mentors, friends, family, and other loved ones. They are, equally, part of today’s new beginnings, and we all are grateful to them.

As globalization accelerates, we have no choice but to enhance our international ties and extend our educational reach. But even more importantly, at Iowa, we embrace international education asa choice—as both a public good and as an exciting intellectual challenge. On campus, we believe it is important to encourage our students to study the languages, cultures, and histories of other peoples around the world. We also believe it is important for students to learn in diverse environments, interacting with people, cultures, and ideas that are different from their own. That is why we are so pleased and proud that our international student population back home is at record levels. And in fact, the greatest majority of those international students are from this part of the world. These kinds of educational experiences not only personally enrich students and contribute to strong critical thinking skills, but they also prepare students for successful careers in an increasingly globalized world. And beyond individual success, a populace educated in world cultures is much more likely to enjoy stronger security, better foreign relations, and greater prosperity.

Just as it is important for us to bring the world to our campus in Iowa, it is equally crucial that we bring the education we provide out into the world. The borders of knowledge in the modern world cannot be limited by the borders of geography. In a global economy and a multicultural world, we must share our knowledge and perspective across national lines, across the oceans and hemispheres, and across cultures. Indira Gandhi once said, “Mankind will endure when the world appreciates the logic of diversity.” International education and exchange are critical to learning the logic of global diversity, and thus critical to a world built on bridges of cooperation and understanding.

This is why I am so pleased that the Tippie School of Management’s Hong Kong International MBA program represents so well the University of Iowa’s commitment to and vision for international education, exchange, and cooperation. We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of providing MBA business education in Hong Kong, and as I said earlier, I could not be more proud to share this important milestone with you. Today is not just a milestone for you personally but also for the University of Iowa.

Clearly this type of education is what the world needs and wants. The program here is flourishing both in quality and quantity of students. Our partner in Hong Kong, China Education Group, is doing an outstanding job recruiting high-caliber students and providing them with the necessary service and support to succeed. It is no surprise that student satisfaction in the program is rising along with the growing student body.

One of the key distinctions of the Tippie International MBA Program compared to competing programs is that we fly the same high-quality professors who teach our students in Iowa all the way to Hong Kong to teach you right here. Our goal of sharing an Iowa education with the world is not just an ideal but a material fact. We literally bring the University of Iowa to your door. But the benefits of this type of program are multiple. Not only do you gain from being taught by our faculty in person, but our faculty learn and are transformed by their experience here. They gain new perspective and new knowledge by working with you in your home environment, and they bring that back home to us in Iowa, enriching the education we provide our students on campus.

There is literally no better place in the world for our faculty—and you—to learn about the globalized economy than Hong Kong. For the second year in a row, the Globalization Index released by Ernst & Young in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that Hong Kong ranks the highest level of globalization among the sixty largest economies in the world. Thanks to Hong Kong’s excellent performance in cultural integration, openness to trade, and movement of capital and finance, both you and our visiting faculty are learning in the world’s finest crucible of international business. So today we not only congratulate you on your achievements, but we also thank you for your part in raising the quality of an Iowa education everywhere.

At the same time that your Tippie International MBA training has been uniquely expansive, positioning you on the cusp of a globe-spanning career, your education has also been uniquely rooted in the very special character of a University of Iowa education. Unlike other programs, ours offers one degree—the University of Iowa Master of Business Administration. You are receiving the same degree as anyone else who goes through our Tippie MBA program. Regardless of where our students receive their instruction—on our Iowa City campus, through our evening or executive MBA programs in other cities in Iowa, or in Hong Kong—there is only one MBA degree offered across all of our programs, united by a common vision and value proposition The learning goals—leadership, experiential learning, global perspectives, and social responsibility, including ethics and integrity—are the same regardless of where you are located while earning your degree.

So when you now go out into the world and say you are a University of Iowa graduate, that carries very real and true meaning. You are University of Iowa alumni, just as much as those alumni who grew up on a farm in Iowa or came to our state from New York City to learn in one of our renowned programs.
I understand that you, the students in this program, very much cherish the feeling of belonging to the same University of Iowa family as your fellow students on campus in Iowa City. I want to affirm that such a feeling is born out of reality, that we think of you as very much part of our university family, and that that we cherish your contributions to our institutional excellence as well as the remarkable contributions that you will make to the world. I am honored that I am able to share that message with you today in person. I can think of no better way to express how much we value this partnership and how much we value our Hong Kong students as essential members of the University of Iowa community than by being here with you today—not just I as president of the university, but also Provost Butler, Tippie College of Business Dean Gardial, and other distinguished leaders from the university.

Back home in Iowa, when I speak at our campus commencements, I usually end with the same remarks every time. So in keeping with what I have just said, please let me conclude with the same final words I share with our graduating students in Iowa. One of the greatest badges of pride for you to wear from this day forward is your degree from the University of Iowa. Congratulations once again to you all—on your path hard-traveled, on your achievements well-earned, and on your future brightly lit. And thank you, as graduates of this magnificent institution, for being—once and always—proud to be an Iowa Hawkeye!