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University of Missouri

Building Global Bridges

Business alumnus travels Southeast Asia on prestigious fellowship.

Tim Nowak

Tim Nowak, BS BA, BS BA ’92, poses with two Indonesian girls at Borobudur Temple, a ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia.

The global economy’s center of gravity is shifting to Southeast Asia, and it’s no coincidence that that’s where you’ll find Tim Nowak this summer.

Nowak, BS BA, BS BA ’92, is executive director of the World Trade Center St. Louis, a nonprofit agency that integrates St. Louis into the international economy. But he’s not in Indonesia and Malaysia on business, strictly speaking — though you might not know it by looking at his itinerary. Nowak is a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow.

During their six-week Eisenhower Fellowships, the eight to 10 participants from the U.S. can travel anywhere in the world to meet and learn from the local leaders in their professional field. The program launched in 1953 in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Today, it boasts former U.S. secretaries of state Colin Powell and Madeline Albright, and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman among its leadership.

It’s a unique opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go wherever you want, within reason, and learn from and connect with a powerful international network,” says Nowak in a videoconference interview from his hotel room in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.

He’ll be meeting with leaders in business, academia, media and government — including Indonesian presidential candidates — to see “how we can better connect St. Louis and Missouri to Southeast Asia.”

While that sounds like the kind of trade mission that took him to Indonesia in 2012 with former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Missouri), Nowak says this trip is not about signing contracts or crafting partnership proposals. “It’s about expanding my understanding of Southeast Asia overall — its values, people, cultures,” he says. “While you’re doing that you’re developing a unique network of connections” that can be used to accomplish long-term goals.

USINDO panel

Nowak, center, speaks at a forum on economic and education engagement sponsored by The United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO). He is joined by Mauricio Amore, left, president director of Monsanto Indonesia, and David Merrill, right, president of USINDO. Thomas Payne, MU’s vice chancellor for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, not pictured, also participated.

The learning goes both ways, however. When asked to give a talk in Jakarta to The U.S.-Indonesia Society, an influential nonprofit dedicated to improving understanding between the two countries, Nowak proposed expanding it to a panel discussion, to which he invited Thomas Payne, MU’s vice chancellor for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Jim Scott, director of MU’s International Center, organized Payne’s trip. Scott has been to Indonesia half a dozen times the past two years. He’s attracted to the country for the same reasons as Nowak: It’s large (250 million people, 43 percent of whom are under younger than 25) and growing (5.3 percent or higher economic growth rate the past three years).

There’s a lot of young people [there] in need of education,” Scott says. “There’s a need for agriculture science, engineering, all the things we do well. There’s a lot of funding from the government to encourage faculty from their university to come to U.S. universities to improve their skills and complete their PhDs.”

The opportunity for Mizzou, Scott says, is to develop relationships with those young researchers, who then go back their home country but continue to involve Mizzou professors in their research.

Nowak says the relationships he is building are the kind required for successful international business partnerships. “You can’t do this via the computer or phone; you have to go in country, in person and get to know the country,” he says. “We have a lot to offer, but we have even more to learn.”

Nowak is blogging about his trip at timjnowak.com.