Building on established academic and research ties, Northern Arizona University joins eight other U.S. colleges and universities participating in the 2012 Myanmar initiative of the International Academic Partnership Program.

The program, an initiative of the Institute of International Education, aims at rebuilding higher education capacity in the country, beginning with strategic planning and the development of institutional partnerships.

“We were recognized for the multiple ways that global education has been infused into the NAU campus,” said Mandy Hansen, director of International Admissions and Recruitment in the Center for International Education at NAU. “The expertise and experience of NAU faculty and staff will be an asset when applied to program development and partnerships in Myanmar.”

Three students from Myanmar attend NAU, said Hansen, who traveled there in 2010 to recruit.

Another NAU representative on the project is Cyndi Banks, associate provost and associate vice dean of University College. Banks participated in a UNICEF juvenile justice research project in July 2011 as chair and professor of criminal justice and criminology at NAU. She visited several institutions and met with police, the Supreme Court and the Myanmar Council of Churches to assist in evaluating the conditions and practices in place for juvenile victims and offenders.

In recent years, Myanmar has undertaken a series of reforms in moving from a military-run government to one that promotes democracy and more openness to the Western world.

President Barack Obama just completed a visit to the country, including a stop at Yangon University. Myanmar’s government has identified support for higher education as an area of focus.

Hansen said NAU’s goals in the program include strategic partnerships, an exploration of dual-degree programs and student exchange.

“Myanmar is an emerging market for international student exchange,” Hansen said, “with potential for faculty, staff and student exchange in the future.”

One of NAU’s own strategic goals is to increase international student enrollment, which stands at 989 students in the current semester.

The other institutions participating with NAU in Myanmar are American University, Arizona State University, Ball State University, Hawaii Pacific University, Northern Illinois University, Samford University, the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and the University of Washington.