Chancellor conducts TelePresence meeting from China

November 5, 2010 By John Lucas

Photo: Bryce Richter

UW-Madison students, faculty and staff gathered in the Bascom Hill TelePresence Classroom in the Education Building on Friday, Nov. 5 to inaugurate the powerful new videoconferencing device through a virtual meeting with Chancellor Biddy Martin, center right, and Vice Provost for Globalization and Dean of International Studies Gilles Bousquet, center left, in Beijing.

Undergraduates from professor Jeremi Suri’s Grand Strategy Program discussed the use of new technology in connecting the U.S. and China, along with UW–Madison’s aspirations in the country and relations between the nations.

“This technology is a powerful symbol of how interconnected our university has become with the world.”

William P. Tishler

Martin was excited by the new Cisco TelePresence system, believing it was a useful tool in supplementing face-to-face interaction with extremely high-quality audio and video. A second unit has been installed in the soon-to-open Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Martin helped to inaugurate the cutting-edge technology as part of her trip to China and Taiwan.

The two identical Cisco TelePresence CTS 3210 units were installed on the Madison campus last week.

The CTS 3210 system allows real-time global videoconferencing that closely simulates “live” in-person meetings. The system was designed by Cisco to help companies and institutions participate in face-to-face meetings without the costs or carbon footprint associated with travel.

Use of this technology is part of UW–Madison’s broader innovative efforts to build valuable international connections for research, teaching, and public service.

Martin departed for China on Nov. 1 and met with several dignitaries there, including the vice minister of education, Wisconsin companies doing business in China, including the Oshkosh Corp., and spoke at the Beijing Forum, a gathering of international leaders.

Despite the 13-hour time difference, Chancellor Martin ended her week on Friday with the discussion from Beijing with a diverse group of 14 undergraduate students in the Grand Strategy Program taught by history professor Jeremi Suri.

“The ability to instantly communicate ‘face-to-face’ in real time with students and faculty around the world makes TelePresence the ideal tool for teaching and learning in the 21st century,” says William P. Tishler, a media specialist who serves as the technical coordinator for the planning and implementation of the Cisco TelePresence classroom. “This technology is a powerful symbol of how interconnected our university has become with the world.”

During the meeting, Martin discussed the Beijing leg of her trip, her goals in China and Taiwan and the role that young people in both societies can play in improving cooperation and progress on complex global challenges. Martin also encouraged students to think about ways in which they can connect more directly with peers in China and other countries, especially through the use of new communications technologies.

“The students are particularly excited to be included in this discussion with their chancellor and build on her valuable outreach work in China” says Suri who teaches U.S. foreign relations courses and serves as an advisor to many of the students who attended.

With an eye toward the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Wisconsin Idea in 2012, Friday’s Telepresence discussion will also explored the future role of the University of Wisconsin–Madison in pioneering new contributions to the state, the nation, and the world.

In the future, the Bascom Hill TelePresence classroom is expected to have many uses in the campus community, including courses, research collaborations, and public outreach events. For example, the system could be used for graduate seminars, low-enrollment courses, classes in critical language programs and research collaborations involving two or more institutions worldwide.

The Bascom Hill TelePresence classroom will be available for members of the campus community after Nov. 16. For those interested in learning how to utilize TelePresence in their teaching and research can contact Tishler at wptishler@wisc.edu. In addition, a website is being developed at http://telepresence.wisc.edu.