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Nim Chinniah promotes Northwestern’s global vision in Korea

University executive vice president greets new Korean students, thanks alumni in Seoul

Northwestern University Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah addresses a group of Northwestern alumni Thursday (July 7) in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Moon Kyu Lee.
Northwestern University Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah addresses a group of Northwestern alumni Thursday (July 7) in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Moon Kyu Lee.

EVANSTON - Northwestern University Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah greeted incoming students and their families in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday (July 7) and outlined for his Korean alumni audience a broad new global strategy the University is executing in the years ahead.

“The vision of this global strategy is to solidify Northwestern as one of the world’s premier universities,” Chinniah told the guests at a reception and new student send-off hosted by the Korea Alumni Association and the Northwestern Alumni Association.

At a new student orientation earlier in the day on Chinniah’s visit to Seoul, he also greeted new undergraduate and graduate students and their parents, welcoming them to the University family and telling them about his own personal, transformational journey from Sri Lanka to the United States as an international student long ago.

Chinniah emphasized that the University’s global vision is “to develop a culture and infrastructure that link our intellectual communities to larger international idea and innovation networks and enable our faculty administrators and students to lead advances in research and teaching critical to human development and understanding.”

The elegant gathering in the Grand Hyatt Seoul was hosted by Y.K. Ha ’81 MBA, chairman of the Korea Federation of Banks and chair of the Korea Alumni Association; Jason Shin ’87, ’19 P, a member of Northwestern’s International Campaign Committee for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern; and the Korea Alumni Association. In thanking his hosts, Chinniah also singled out the alumni leadership teams in Seoul, representing the NU Club of Korea and the Korea Alumni Association for their efforts, as well.

The vision of this global strategy is to solidify Northwestern as one of the world’s premier universities.

Nim Chinniah
Executive Vice President

“Events like this one highlight and reaffirm Northwestern’s commitment to fostering a truly diverse and inclusive global community,” Chinnah said. “As Northwestern looks to attract the best and brightest students and scholars from all over world, our global brand and reputation are critical, and we continue to grow and strengthen our reputation and academic rankings both globally and in the U.S.”

In wide-ranging remarks at the evening gathering, Chinniah also enumerated three guiding principles that help focus Northwestern’s global efforts and vision: 

  • An ambitious intellectual agenda, not an economic one, must drive Northwestern’s global investments.
  • The University must focus on excellence to gain greater prominence in the world’s leading innovation and idea networks by identifying and investing deeply in select areas of strength and impact.
  • Being global requires a dual orientation, focusing with strength both on expanding outward to new horizons and on integrating global perspectives at home.

Looking forward

Chinniah observed that key action steps ahead for Northwestern include identifying three to five new global themes in which the University will invest deliberately to provide the intellectual breadth and grounding needed to drive global investment. Having a global strategy, he noted, “will allow us to build upon existing areas of investment in a thoughtful way and on a larger scale.”

In addition, he noted, other key steps will be developing a global framework for launching new sites and physical locations over the next five years as well as plans to integrate existing sites outside the Chicago area — Miami, New York, Qatar, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — within a broader investment strategy and framework. This will help in “creating a network of interconnected cities that are aligned in their support and execution of our mission,” he noted. “These sites are not about ownership, but about further enabling our core University agendas: research, teaching and convening.

“If we are to truly be recognized as a leading global university of the future, we must continue to nurture our relationships and partnerships, work collaboratively as faculty, students, alumni and staff, and proactively seek opportunities for our community members to engage globally,” Chinniah emphasized.

He also outlined how having a highly selective institution coupled with programs that are consistently ranked among the best in their class helps Northwestern “move the needle on growing our brand and reputation.”

International student population

This year, Chinniah noted, Northwestern received more than 37,000 undergraduate applications. Only 9.2 percent of those who applied for admission were accepted into Northwestern. The University’s graduate programs are highly selective and consistently highly ranked, attracting the best students, scholars, researchers and faculty from all over the globe, he said.

“Today, international students represent 23 percent of full-time students enrolled at Northwestern — a significant number demonstrating the global reach of the University,” Chinniah observed. “Students from South Korea account for 10 percent, signifying the importance of South Korea in Northwestern’s global landscape.

“South Korea is among the top three countries, along with China and India, sending both students and scholars — postdocs, researchers and faculty — to Northwestern, which means many of our past, present and future University community members originate right here,” he told his audience in Seoul.

Moreover, 1,042 alumni live in South Korea, he added. There are 220 students currently enrolled at Northwestern from South Korea. About half of these — 102 — are undergraduate students, and the remaining 118 are graduate students, he said.

220Northwestern students from South Korea

Further demonstrating the bond between Northwestern and South Korea, Chinniah listed several key international programs and partnerships, such as:

  • The McCormick School of Engineering and South Korea’s Yonsei University offer both a dual MS program and a visiting scholars program in chemical and biological engineering.
  • The Kellogg School of Management has an MBA exchange with both Yonsei University and with the SKK Graduate School of Business at SungKyunkwan University.
  • Northwestern Pritzker School of Law offers dual degree master’s and LLM programs with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

He also reached out to alumni in Korea and underscored the fact they have “an incredible opportunity to have a global impact — both in terms of serving as brand ambassadors for the University in a variety of ways, and in working strategically to further the University’s agenda by supporting We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern.”

As of June 30, he noted, 134,851 donors have made gifts to Northwestern as part of the “We Will” Campaign, which puts Northwestern at 95 percent toward the goal of 141,000 donors. In addition, the Campaign has raised US$3.43 billion in donations, which puts the Campaign at 91.4 percent toward the US$3.75 billion goal.

In particular, Chinniah highlighted the importance of Campaign funds with regard to expanding financial aid opportunities, specifically with regard to international students. He noted that Northwestern has already raised more than US$285 million for financial aid, establishing 303 new scholarships and fellowships during the Campaign thus far.

Northwestern has also expanded scholarships for international students, with more than US$2 million raised through the Buffett Institute Matching Gift Challenge for international undergraduate scholarships, he said. This accounts for six scholarships targeted specifically to international undergraduate students.

Through the challenge, made possible by a visionary gift from Northwestern University alumna Roberta Buffett Elliott ’54, up to US$20 million total in matching funds will be used to inspire other benefactors to endow scholarships for international undergraduate students at Northwestern.

Furthermore, the University has increased stipends for graduate students to enhance the quality of student life, increasing the base stipend paid to Ph.D. and MFA students in The Graduate School by 26 percent to US$29,000 a year in 2016, he noted.

Chinniah extended greetings to the group from Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, and he noted that he hoped to return to Seoul with the president this fall.

Accompanying Chinniah on the current trip to South Korea was Sarah McGill, associate vice president of strategic initiatives. Other Northwestern officials visiting Seoul included Nick Seamons, associate director of the International Office; Sarah Wagoner, senior associate director of global engagement for the Northwestern Alumni Association; Theresa Johnson, coordinator of the International Office; and Alex Herrera, executive director of international fundraising for Alumni Relations and Development.

The new student orientation earlier in the day Thursday was one part of the Northwestern In program, an in-country program under way since 2014 in South Korea, China and India to welcome new students in person from those three nations, which are the top three countries sending students to Northwestern. 

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