Fort Wayne, Indiana and Mawlamyine, Myanmar became the first ever US-Myanmar friendship city relationship after signing an official agreement in 2016. As part of a growing relationship between the two cities, Purdue University of Fort Wayne announced an educational exchange program in partnership with Mawlamyine University in March of 2020.
The new exchange program between Purdue University at Fort Wayne and Mawlamyine University is the outcome of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the two parties in December of 2019. The program primarily focuses on English language exchange, with the intention for the Fort Wayne faculty to take an active role in higher education reform at Mawlamyine University. It aims to provide opportunities for both students and professors of the two countries to learn from one another in cultural as well as academic respects. The initial efforts from the program have already brought two student exchanges to Fort Wayne and a student exchange to Mawlamyine. The committee involved has also formed an English language teacher program which is currently accommodated at Mawlamyine University. According to Dr. Mi Mi Sein, an assistant professor at Mawlamyine University, the exchange program looks forward to expanding into the realm of cultural, business, and tourism opportunities in the future.
While a formal exchange program between Indiana and Myanmar only began in 2020, the relationship between the two locations dates back to the early 1990s. Through the help of the US State Department’s resettlement program and groups such as Catholic Charities and Friends of Burma, many refugees have resettled in Indiana due to civil unrest in the country. Prominent populations reside in cities such as Fort Wayne and Indianapolis; Fort Wayne is now home to many ethnic groups such as Mon, Chin, Karen, and Bamar people. There are about 11,544 people from Myanmar living in Indiana, making the state home to a substantial population of Burmese Americans.
Exchange program between the two universities are currently halted due to COVID-19 concerns; they will be resumed once restrictions between the countries are lifted.
Htet Thadar Aung is a Research Intern in the Young Professionals Program at East-West Center in Washington. She is a recent graduate of Smith College with majors in Government and Religion.