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New Consortium Links MIT and Taiwan

A consortium of Taiwan conglomerates has joined under the aegis of the Taiwan-based Epoch Foundation to support research, teaching and program development in the Asia/Pacific region at the Sloan School of Management.

The new endowment, which will total $10 million by 1994 and may grow beyond that, underscores the school's stated mission "to be the recognized leader in the development and dissemination of fundamental, discipline-based knowledge for improving management in the context of a global economy."

To date 12 Taiwan corporations have contributed $500,000 each, for a total of $6 million. Another eight will contribute another $4 million before 1994, according to Paul Hsu, senior partner in the Taiwan law firm Lee and Li, who is leading the effort in Taiwan.

The MIT-Taiwan Program, as it may be called, originated several years ago in a conversation between Mr. Hsu and Sloan School Dean Lester C. Thurow. At the time, Dean Thurow expressed interest in establishing research at Sloan on China-based economies, which he envisioned would soon complement the Japanese, North American and European trading blocs.

"That will eventually happen but China has a long way to go," Mr. Hsu said recently on a visit to Cambridge. Instead he suggested a regional studies program organized around Chinese-based economies. This small change, from China-based to Chinese-based, redefines the region to include already economically strong and entrepreneurial Chinese communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, not to mention Europe, the United States and Canada. "Conceptually," Mr. Hsu says, "it's a gold mine."

According to the memorandum of agreement that establishes the endowment fund, the program "is committed to fostering research of the highest quality on management, policy and economic issues related to the Asia/Pacific region; the incorporation of Asia-related case materials and research into major school course offerings at every level; faculty development; and the development of linkages between the school and key educational institutions and business enterprises within the region."

Income from the endowment will help support at least one faculty member whose research focuses on Chinese-based concerns; executive education programs both in Taiwan and at Sloan; regional workshops and conferences that will bring together the disparate Chinese-based economies; and scholarships for Taiwanese students in the Sloan master's and executive education programs.

(The first Taiwanese to benefit from the initiative was Ying-Tien Hou, a manager in the president's office of Tung Ho Steel Enterprise Corporation in Taiwan, who enrolled in the Fall 1991 session of the MIT Senior Executives Program. Mr. Hou greatly enjoyed his stay in Boston-it was his first visit to the United States-but found reading the case studies in English so daunting that he wished he could have been given the opportunity to get a head start on the material in Taiwan months ago.)

The program began formally in December, when the chief executive officers of the 12 Taiwan corporations came to Cambridge for a week's introduction to MIT. (None of them had any previous affiliation with the Institute.) For three days they enjoyed short courses in executive education. For one day they met with representatives of the MIT Industrial Liaison Program, to which their participation in the endowment has entitled them to a year's membership. For another day, they met with Americans whose companies represent complementary businesses. A second meeting is planned in Taiwan in June.

Asia/Pacific initiatives like these "give our students and faculty research opportunities and contacts they would otherwise not have," says Leonard Hausman, director of the Taiwan Program. The alternative, which a number of other US graduate business schools have adopted but Sloan has not, has been to establish overseas campuses.

The initiative extends Sloan's growing number of partnerships with foreign organizations, among them Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, MIP-Politecnico in Milan, Italy, and STOA in Naples, Italy.

A version of this article appeared in the January 8, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 16).

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