Consular Bridge to Academe

Consular Bridge to Academe

General Steel Holdings, Inc. (“General Steel,” NYSE: GSI), a leading non-state-owned steel producer in China, has announced the formation of an Executive Advisory Committee. The stated purpose is to strengthen the company’s clean technology expertise and expedite its business transformation.

Normally something like that wouldn’t make it to my blog, but follow along with me:

On the committee is someone by the name of Dr. George V. Chilingar, who piques our interest because of his background: he has been the honorary consul of Honduras since 1983. For over fifty years he also taught various courses in Petroleum Engineering, Petroleum Geology, and Environmental Engineering at USC, and this makes him a member of the faculty at his university (part of “academe” if you will). His list of credentials is long and impressive.

I include Dr. Chilingar as one example of a consular bridge to higher education. In the old days there were many examples of consular appointments being used as a reward — possibly in some of the academic positions — instead of for the fulfilling of an actual need for consular services. In those cases, being an honorary consul was purely an honor bestowed for some other services rendered.

Although we don’t know to what extent Dr. Chilingar actually engaged in consular functions for Honduras his academic position is an example of the many “private” professions that we find among honorary consuls.

I remember years ago when the honorary consul of the Netherlands in Miami was a full faculty member of one of the local universities. While juggling both positions, one of his main consular functions was to develop stronger educational ties between his institution and some Dutch ones, something he was quite open about.

If academic leaders only understand the role of those honorary consuls who are attached to an educational institution natural links to additional revenue sources can begin with these officials. Career consuls, although they cannot be formally employed by a university, may serve the same purpose, since both groups of consuls can also provide the impetus for the overall transfer of knowledge between countries. Just think of faculty and student exchanges, global research projects, on-line sharing of materials and other resources, etc.

As I say in my book, establishing additional sources of revenue should be a major consideration of all academic institutions. This means when universities overlook the presence of the foreign consuls in their respective communities – or don’t fully understand their functions as official representatives of foreign nations – they do a disservice to themselves and every stakeholder in global educational exchange.