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A look at President Becker’s travels across the globe

Georgia State University President Mark Becker has been traveling around the U.S. and the world on university business, with many students unaware of what he is doing and where he’s going. So, where has Becker been over the past two fiscal years and why?

HONG KONG AND KOREA (Oct. 11-20, 2016)

From Oct. 11-20, 2016, Becker and members of the Office of the Provost took a trip to Hong Kong, China and Korea. This trip’s purpose was to create international partners and attend research presentations in the region.

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On Oct. 16, Becker signed an agreement with the University of Seoul to make Georgia State and UoS “partners in academic, student and faculty collaboration.”

“The visit to University of Seoul was intended to start a new institutional relationship and resulted in a formal Memorandum of Cooperation with GSU to facilitate research collaboration in Sociology, Urban Studies, and other related areas,” Associate Provost for International Initiatives Wolfgang Schloer said.

For the rest of the trip, Becker and the other administrators attended research presentations with Hanyang University, Chung Ang University and Pusan National University. Topics of research included urban planning, design, transportation and sociology.

Notable attendees from Georgia State included Risa Palm and Mary Beth Walker –– both work in the Office of the Provost and are advisors to Mark Becker, although Palm has recently stepped down.

According to Palm’s online biography page, her “research interests are in urban geography, and she has done extensive work on the topics of natural hazards response and urban housing.”

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Both Palm and Walker’s research interests seem to explain why they were attendees on the trip.

Walker’s research interests center on quantitative evaluation of policy, including tax policy and some labor market issues. In recent years, she has focused research efforts towards education economics, her online biography states.

LONDON (Nov. 20-23, 2016)

In Nov. 2016, Becker took a business trip to London where he met with shareholders, hotel companies and investment groups.

“Both London trips were for the dual purposes of meeting with representatives of organizations we work with to host Georgia students in our London intern program, and Georgia State alumni living and working in London,” Becker said.

Max Burns, an alumnus of Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business and former Gordon State College President, met with Becker during his final evening in London.

Becker also met with PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Crisis Centre Partner Melanie Butler who has worked alongside organizations to assist them with confronting crises or other critical issues such as data protection or determining leadership strategies within the Brexit situation.

Other people he visited specialize in design and development, clinical laboratory information, management solutions and human resources.

On Nov. 22, Becker met with Jenny Cybul, vice president of human resources at DTI Global, a worldwide provider of legal services serving financial institutions, government agencies, law firms and corporations.

SOUTH AFRICA (March 24-31, 2017)

Georgia State has set a standard for student success that universities across the nation and world turn to for ideas. Becker traveled to the Johannesburg U.S. Consulate Office in South Africa to meet with officers and discuss Georgia State’s research on cities and its success in this realm.

“The purposes of this trip were to meet with partner universities and organizations in South Africa and to meet with South African higher education leaders who are deeply interested in benefiting from Georgia State’s pathbreaking model for student success,” Becker said.

The trip included meeting with colleagues at universities that are partnering with Georgia State’s Global Partnership for Better Cities, which is “founded on joint-research projects taking place in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Cape Town to advance understanding of western, eastern and southern hemisphere conceptual frameworks for studying cities and addressing their challenges.”

Other universities he visited included the University of Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria and the University of Cape Town. On March 28, Becker engaged in a joint-meeting with the University of Witwatersrand’s Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies and the South African Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning.

Becker then attended a dinner held by the South African Institute for Distance Education, which manages the Kresge Siyaphumelela initiative.

This initiative uses data analytics to “enhance the effectiveness of programs and policies designed to improve South African university student success.”

Becker said the Kresge Foundation has “generously supported student success work at Georgia State as well as in South Africa,” and that it has been instrumental in facilitating conversations between both South Africa and Georgia State’s higher education leadership.

During this gathering, Becker gave a presentation detailing how he supports change and student success across a complex and large institution like Georgia State. On March 31, he held a discussion on Georgia State’s implementation of big data analytics to promote student success.

CHINA (June 7-13, 2017)

According to a travel expense statement submitted to the university by Becker, he attended a trip to China “to meet with new leadership at Hanban and Beijing Language and Culture University, partner university for our Confucius Institute.”

The Confucius Institute works to promote educational, cultural and trade and business relations between China and the U.S.

“We strive to become a one-of-a-kind resource center in teaching, research, and business consulting related to Chinese language and culture,” their website states.

The Executive Board of the Confucius Institute includes Becker and Li Liu of Beijing Language and Culture University in China. Schloer also oversees the Confucius Institute.

LONDON (Oct. 29 – Nov. 1, 2017)

Becker’s second trip to London prioritized visits with Georgia State’s donors.

On the list of visits were Michael Mainelli and Linda Cook of Z/Yen Group and consultants at Scott Prenn LLP, a fundraising partnership that empowers organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and the British Deaf Association to create a positive impact on their communities.

Z/Yen Group is a think-tank and consultancy firm that handles the “financial services, technology and voluntary sectors on a range of projects from research to performance review and strategic management.”

Becker had second annual meetings with Melanie Butler of PwC and Mark Burns. In addition to PwC’s normal responsibilities, Butler also led the firm’s response to an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Mark Burkhalter, former Georgia Speaker of the House, also held a meeting with Becker.

HONG KONG / MACAU (Nov. 26 – Dec. 1, 2017)

A few months after the last trip to China, Becker traveled to the cities of Hong Kong and Macau for more Confucius Institute business. Becker described the purpose of the trip as a “University Partnership meeting” and an opportunity to “attend [an] International Conference on Cities.”

Similar to the trips before in China, the research discussed was related to urban geography. Professor Jian-Dong Li, a Georgia State professor and director of the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, attended this trip with Becker.

“This will be a follow up visit to continue the conversation Rector/Professor Zhao had with Georgia State University colleagues regarding research collaboration. Professor Jian-Dong Li (Georgia State) and I met with Dr. Fend and Dr. Zhao when they visited Atlanta earlier this year, and we agreed to continue the conversation when JD and I visit Macau at the end of November,” Becker said in emails regarding the itinerary for this trip.

Jian-Dong Li also works alongside Palm in the Office of the Provost which serves as advisement to Becker.

ISRAEL (Dec. 2017)

Although all the previous trips were university funded, Becker also traveled to Israel on his own accord, as previously reported by The Signal.

This trip was designed to strengthen relationships between U.S. and Israeli universities. Becker, alongside five other university and college presidents, dived into the policies and practices of these schools abroad, hoping to bring something new home.

The trip was sponsored by Project Interchange, a part of the American Jewish Committee, a nonprofit education institute.

“Not all elements of society benefit from higher education,” Becker said.

During the trip he explored relationships between Israel and Palestine and how higher education can reach a broader audience in the region.