Academics and Research / Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

New DU institute aims for global sustainability

On Oct. 23, the University of Denver announced the creation of the Institute for Sino-American International Dialogue, a new program that will focus on energy, water and environmental issues facing the U.S. and China.

“Internationalization is one of the great strengths of the University of Denver,” Chancellor Robert Coombe said at a press conference announcing the institute. “We work very hard to provide an international perspective for our students and certainly internationalization is at the core of the scholarship of many of our faculty members.”

Banning Garrett will head the institute, which will bring together high-level officials from both countries to work to avoid environmental crises. Garrett has more than two decades of experience in Asian policy work and is currently director of Asia programs at the Atlantic Council of the U.S. in Washington, D.C. He will join the institute on Jan. 1, 2007.

The institute, which will be part of DU’s Graduate School of International Studies, will be housed with the existing Center for China-U.S. Cooperation in a new addition to the south side of Ben Cherrington Hall.

Garrett said Colorado is a logical place to be because of its comprehensive water laws and work being done within the state in the environmental arena. Although there is growing awareness in the U.S. about environmental issues, he said it’s very difficult to get people in Washington to focus on long-term issues.

At the press conference, Gov. Bill Owens commended the founding of the institute as a forum for cooperation between the U.S. and China.

The Anna and John J. Sie Foundation provided nearly $2.4 million in initial funding for the program. Start-up funds include moneys from DU and other sources totaling nearly $3.3 million.

John Sie, a DU trustee, explained the rationale for the institute’s focus on energy, water and the environment.

“They tend to have long-term, critical processes and many of them are irreversible,” Sie said.

Sie noted China’s new matrix called the “green GDP” in promoting an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly nation. China could take advantage of scientific and technological advances of the U.S., he said, and in turn, the U.S. could overhaul its way of measuring corporate success by including environmental costs.

During the three-year start-up phase, the institute will focus on building relationships, conducting research and directing forums. Although the institute won’t monitor environmental impacts, it will help organizations that are doing on-the-ground research get their work into the hands of high-level policymakers in both countries.

One of the benchmarks of the program’s success will be whether their recommendations become policy and if those policies are implemented.

“We don’t want to just push paper around,” Garrett said.

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