Major U.S. Corporations Support UA Partnerships With Universities And Governments Around The Globe

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A high-tech collaboration among the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and two of the nation’s largest producers of computer software and hardware will extend the reach of the University of Arkansas by enabling faculty and students to communicate much more easily with colleagues around the world.

Oracle Corporation, the world’s leading supplier of software for information management, has donated operating systems worth $580,335. Sun Microsystems, the world’s leading producer of network computing systems and creator of Java technologies, has given a four-processor server worth $237,930 to the U of A. With these resources, CAST will identify campuses in the Middle East that will become Strategic Centers in partnership with the U of A.

"Essentially these gifts will allow us to create an infrastructure based on the transfer of technology and research to partner campuses. By supporting research and academic exchange, this network will broaden opportunities for collaboration among both faculty and students," said Jim Farley, chief technology officer for Fulbright College and the technical director of CAST.

Sun and Oracle are investing in an innovative new initiative called EDNET2K, short for "an educational network for the second millennium." Through the program, Sun and Oracle will provide hardware and software to Strategic Centers to be established in Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey. CAST, which uses the same Sun and Oracle technologies, will then be able to support a seamless flow of information among these Centers and the UA campus.

Other components of EDNET2K include faculty-student exchange, professional development, technology transfer and faculty research projects that are both collaborative and multidisciplinary.

Nicole M. Melander, vice president for the Oracle Academic Initiative, said, "Oracle is committed to improving technical literacy worldwide. The EDNET2K program provides a model for the creation of a true multidisciplinary program, including agriculture, geosciences and business."

Kim Jones, vice president of Global Education and Research at Sun Microsystems, said that SUN is pleased to be part of CAST’s efforts to expand globally. "The Center has a proud history of innovative collaborations with government, education and the private sector," said Jones.

Sun will provide a four-processor server with four gigabytes of memory and .7 terabytes of disk space, while Oracle will contribute software in support of both EDNET2K and upgrades at CAST, as part of an earlier Center of Excellence agreement.

"The focus here is to share research and enhance current programs through collaborations that involve not only UA faculty, but also private corporations and universities both in the U.S. and abroad. The Fulbright College has long been a leader in fostering programs of international education and exchange," said Interim Dean Randall Woods.

Faculty actively participating in EDNET2K and related programs come from across the UA campus: CAST; the Environmental Dynamics Program; the King Fahd Middle East Studies Program; the Departments of Anthropology; Biological Sciences; Computer Science and Computer Engineering; Geosciences; the Arkansas Water Resources Center; a cross section of the social sciences; the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences; and the School of Architecture. Through the EDNET2K initiative, university faculty hope to forge more partnerships with private corporations such as Sun and Oracle, as well as provide a structure that facilitates short- and long-term projects.

Farley said, "When we engage in academic exchanges to distant locations such as the Middle East, consider just time zones and the cultural differences faculty and students face. Add to that having them arrive at partner universities only to discover all the research tools are different. What we’ve done through EDNET2K and with the support of Oracle and Sun is create a consistent framework for education that is both global and multidisciplinary. Now that we have the same tools, a faculty member or student could show up at a partner university and feel right at home."

Farley plans to establish two strategic centers at the outset, one in Lebanon and one in Egypt. He recently returned from a trip to both countries, where he met with leaders in Egypt of the American University in Cairo, Misr University for Science and Technology, Sixth October University, and the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, the Egyptian counterpart to NASA. In Lebanon he met with representatives from the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. Of these, four were interested in being designated Strategic Centers, or, as Farley described them, "mirror sites" that will share with CAST the same common, dependable technology infrastructure and software.

"Nobody really pays anything, and everybody wins," Farley said. "Sun and Oracle will have the opportunity to introduce their products to new markets. Now, whatever their location, visiting students and faculty will share the same resources for communication and research. And if a university can demonstrate that it will accommodate our faculty and students well, then we’re in a position to offer software and hardware that is worth between $2 to $3 million in the Middle East."

Since 1997, Farley has traveled to various regions in the Middle East, gathering information on ways to enhance the many partnerships begun through the Fulbright College’s King Fahd Middle East Studies Program, established in 1993 by a $21.5 million gift from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Earlier agreements with Jordan and Saudi Arabia have proven to be catalysts for these latest gifts.

CAST has also been involved in a series of Middle East initiatives since 1997, when Center faculty helped to develop a cooperative agreement with the Royal Jordanian Geographic Center, which pledged to provide geographical data in Jordan and begin a series of professional development curriculums based on the transfer of technology.

The Jordanian agreement became the model for a subsequent agreement with King Faisal University and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Researchers in the King Faisal project are addressing issues in aquifer management in arid regions, particularly in the Al-Hassa oasis near Hofuf, one of the earliest settlements in the Kingdom. This project, defined in December 1997, was initiated during the summer of 1999 under a broader agreement between the U of A and the Kingdom. Researchers from the Arkansas Water Resources Center and CAST are working with their Saudi colleagues to find ways to conserve this most precious of resources in the Middle East.

In addition to these formal efforts, CAST has held discussions with academic and public sector organizations in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey that are likely candidates for future EDNET2K Centers.

"Essentially," said Farley, "what we’re doing is simple. We’re bringing together the resources and strengths of some of our top facilities and researchers across campus, in the belief that such sharing of knowledge and expertise is at the heart of what a university does."

For further information on EDNET2K and related initiatives, go to


Jim Farley, chief technology officer for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and technical director of the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, (479) 575-6159,

Jim Mitchell, director of development for the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, (479) 575-3712,

Dixie Kline, manager of development communications, University Relations, (479) 575-7944,


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