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Professor paves way for USC Price partnerships in Asia

Erik Heikkila bolsters ties in Singapore, Indonesia and China through high-level meetings and lecture on climate change

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Erik Heikkila finalized a Memorandum of Understanding between USC Price and the Nanyang Centre for Public Administration at Nanyang Technological University, a longtime partner in Singapore. (Photo/Nanyang Technical University)

As part of the USC Price School of Public Policy’s ongoing efforts to develop and enhance worldwide partnerships, Professor Eric Heikkila recently traveled to Asia, where he finalized a new institutional agreement, gave guest lectures and met with leaders in education and government.

“We’re doing important things,” said Heikkila, director of international initiatives. “The ultimate goal of our global engagement is to advance the Price School and benefit its students and faculty.”

Executive education in Singapore

In February, Heikkila took the opportunity to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding between USC Price and the Nanyang Centre for Public Administration at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), a longtime partner in Singapore.

The MOU primarily focused on offering joint executive education for government officials from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere in the region.

“By offering their clients an opportunity to come to the U.S. and to receive a U.S. perspective on some of the public administration topics that they address in their training,” Heikkila explained, “it may help them to attract more people to Nanyang. And of course, they in turn can serve as a gateway for groups that may be interested in coming to USC.”

Heikkila served as a visiting professor at the Nanyang Centre, where he learned more about the research of his faculty colleagues and mentored half a dozen Ph.D. students and junior faculty about how to succeed in their academic careers. 

He also met with undergraduates and delivered a presentation about China, the United States and climate change based on a chapter from his forthcoming book, China From U.S. Policy Perspectives.

“Each chapter looks at a different U.S. federal department and addresses: What is the mission of that department, what are some of the contentious issues, who are the stakeholders and how does the rise of China alter that configuration?” Heikkila said. “The chapter that I just finished, actually while I was in Singapore, was the chapter on the Environmental Protection Agency.”

In his presentation, he explored how the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses — the U.S. and China — must assume the role of global leaders in tackling the challenge of climate change.

“If the two leading emitters are themselves not able to reach an agreement on this or to provide leadership,” he said, “there’s no reason to expect that any other country would be able to do so.”

Heikkila detailed institutional mechanisms, including cap and trade and carbon tax, which might be used within the United States to address the problem. He also looked at the role of the U.S. and China in organizations such as the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, ratified by 195 countries with the aim of preventing dangerous human interference with the climate system.

At the suggestion of his NTU colleagues, Heikkila met with the head of the U.N. Development Programme Global Center for Excellence in Public Service, based in Singapore.

Next stop: Hong Kong

During the same trip, Heikkila convened with administrators from The University of Hong Kong to discuss plans for academic collaborations between the two institutions. He spoke with Dean John Burns of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Dean Christopher Webster of the Faculty of Architecture, which includes programs in urban planning and real estate development.

Heikkila also built on USC’s strong relationship with another partner, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, by joining that university’s President Tony Chan and Vice President for Institutional Advancement Eden Woon at a reception hosted by the Italian Consul General.

Indonesia collaboration

In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Heikkila met with other representatives from the U.N. Development Programme to explore how to include international agencies in USC Price’s larger collaborative strategy.

While in Jakarta, Heikkila also connected with his USC Price doctoral alumnus Suprayoga Hadi, who now serves as deputy minister for the development of special regions at the State Ministry for Development of Disadvantaged Regions in Indonesia.

Hadi organized a dinner with USC Price alumni, who discussed strategies for creating policy continuity following a recent change in Indonesian leadership.

To outline how USC Price might provide input into this process, the alumni group asked Heikkila to draft a concept note.

“It was an opportunity for me to, through their eyes, get an update on what is happening in Indonesia,” Heikkila said.

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Professor paves way for USC Price partnerships in Asia

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