The Embassy held a zoom meeting was held on 26 August 2021 with the key members of the recently formed US-SL Academic & Research Collaboration (USLARCN) Network, Dr. Richard R. Vuylsteke, President of the East-West Center, and other officials of the East-West Center, to explore possible collaborative activities with the East-West Center relating to Sri Lanka and US-Sri Lanka relations in a structured manner.
During the meeting, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha recalled his meeting with Dr. Richard Vuylsteke at the time of his visit to Hawaii in May 2021 to revive the interest the East-West Center played in Sri Lanka Studies, the multifaceted US-Sri Lanka relationship and particularly to ensure a more nuanced understanding on Sri Lanka and the US, to those involved in the academic and policy levels in both countries.
While introducing the US-SL Academic & Research Collaboration Network which was recently launched to connect the Overseas Sri Lankan academic community to leverage their support towards the national interests of Sri Lanka, Ambassador emphasized the importance of having the East-West Center and the Academic & Research Network work together in developing Sri Lankan Studies in the US.
Prof. Lani Gunawardene, who coordinates the USLARCN network, explained that the academic network is mainly focused on Learning, Research, Co-Mentoring & Community and she mentioned that the East-West Center and their projects are focused on Education Research and Professional Development which are very similar to what the USLARCN is engaged in.
During the discussion, Professor Wimal Dissanayake of the University of Hawaii noted that the Network can closely work with the East-West Center. He stressed that the objective of the USLARCN network is to have a more nuanced, complex, and realistic understanding of Sri Lanka and that is achievable, since the network consists of Natural Scientists, Social Scientists, and Humanists. In addition to that, he discussed the importance of ‘newer learning’ and the way the collaborative group can productively feed into the work of the East-West Center.
Dr. Richard R. Vuylsteke, President said the East-West Center over six decades has a long list of Sri Lankan students, participants, and scholars who engaged with them in Honolulu and their Alumni Network could be another addendum to the Network which was recently been formed by the Embassy and could help bolster the USLARCN network, giving it even greater substance and diversity.
Ms. Ann Hartman, Dean of the Education Program of the East-west Center stressed that the Center provides graduate students with a wide range of opportunities to develop the US and the Asia-Pacific relationship in a new era of increased dependence.
A follow up discussion was held by the Ambassador and Ms. Wijayanthi, Minister/OSL with Dr. Satu Limaye, Director of East-West Center of Washington DC on August 31, 2021, with a view to mapping out possible areas where the Sri Lanka Embassy, as well as the OSL Network, could mutually cooperate with the East West Center. During the discussion, Dr. Limaye detailed the ongoing programs and the opportunities available from the East-West Center to the Sri Lankan academia.
As a part of the same initiative, the Embassy organized a meeting with Ms. Sandarshi Gunawardena, Executive Director, US-SL Fulbright Commission on September 4, 2021 to find the way forward to connect the Fulbright scholars to and from Sri Lanka with the USLARCN.
Ambassador Aryasinha stressed the importance of filling the gaps in the known groups of Sri Lankan academics in the US through the Fulbright scholars.
Describing the nature of the Network, Prof. Lani Gunawardene explained that the USLARCN consists of the Academics and Researchers who have volunteered to collaborate with Sri Lankan colleagues and academics. She emphasized that the network is all about Learning, Education, Research, Co- Mentoring, and Community.
Ms. Sandarshi Gunawardena, Executive Director, US-SL Fulbright Commission commended all for coming together as a network, which is a great opportunity to help Sri Lanka as well as to help the United States. She explained that it was an area that they have been focusing on as a Commission. Ms. Sandarshi appreciated the Embassy’s effort to enhance the US-SL Academic Collaboration connecting the USLARCN and the Fulbright Commission together.
Ms. Wijayanthi Edirisinghe, Minister conveyed her sincere thanks to all the members who attended the meeting for their valuable contribution towards the progress of the Academic Network which comes under the key pillar of Socio-Cultural Engagement relating to the OSL Network.
The meeting was concluded with an interactive session held among the group leaders of the Academic Network and Ms. Sandarshi moderated by Ms. Wijayanthi.