From China, Chancellor Biddy Martin snaps a photo of her audience with her iPhone. Martin[/media-credit]

During her third trip to Beijing, University of Wisconsin Chancellor Biddy Martin hosted a video conference for those back at UW Friday, emphasizing the responsibility UW has in building international relationships and the large role video conferences play in maintaining them.

The teleconference connected Martin, Chinese students and administrators to UW students and faculty.

The Cisco TelePresence allowed Martin to communicate in real-time, simulating an in-person meeting. The device was installed in the Education Building throughout last week, according to UW media specialist William Tishler.

Tishler added the unit is 21st century technology, in that it is designed to provide high definition, live communication throughout the globe.

“This is being designed for students as a classroom instrument,” Tishler said. “Its secondary use is for businesses and organizations, but first and foremost… this is meant for education.”

Students facilitated the conversation with questions for Martin, the Chinese students and administrators regarding international studies and global relations. The students, in the Grand Strategy Program, asked Martin how she envisioned using the technology at UW.

“I think this is amazing,” Martin said in the teleconference. “But I want to keep pushing on the notion that long-term sustainable relationships depend on in-person, reciprocal relationship building; that this can supplement, but not replace.”

Martin added the cost of the technology may be a potential barrier to providing the communication throughout classrooms, but may be essential in building relationships between UW, Wisconsin, U.S. and other countries.

Martin said she met with many state and university officials in China who were increasingly interested in American universities. She added they were impressed by the Wisconsin Idea, because the concept promoted collaboration between students and the community.

During the teleconference, UW history professor Jeremi Suri said he was proud to be a part of a university supporting new means of fostering global communication.

Suri added afterward the ability to more easily communicate between cultures could improve the substantive conversations and ability to improve foreign relations.

“I think it’s extraordinary how easily we could have serious conversation,” Suri said. “We broke down hierarchy and we can build relationships. We talked about real issues.”

UW junior Steven Olikara, who helped facilitate the student group organization and prepare for the teleconference, said the event was historic for its ability to foster discussion between students in different universities.

“I thought it went really well,” Olikara said. “The Chancellor became increasingly excited about the technology, and the focus of the entire event was on students. It’s the first time we’re using this technology for connecting the Chancellor and students back here.”

According to Martin, she hoped her trip to China would enhance the global UW community and create a network of relationships to help students find future opportunities.

Martin added the technology could be used in addition to global studies, but could not replace the learning opportunity provided through traveling and experiencing a different culture face-to-face.

“I warmed up to this more than I thought I could initially,” Martin said. “I still think that as a supplement this is a potentially great thing.”