The Indonesia Connection

If asked to guess the country that claims the largest number of foreign students at LMU today, few might name Indonesia.

Starting in the 1990s, Indonesian students began to attend LMU in increasing numbers. The Asian recession of the late ’90s reduced enrollment, but by fall 2012, about 60 Indonesian undergraduate students were on campus, more than twice the size of the second most numerous nationality.

It’s no surprise, then, that Indonesia also has the strongest LMU alumni community in Asia. With a core of some 30 people, the community is active and organized. And three LMU presidents — Thomas P. O’Malley, S.J., Robert B. Lawton, S.J., and David W. Burcham — have visited the country.

Tom Aaker ’84, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Indonesia, says LMU attracts Indonesians for two reasons. First, LMU not only enjoys a strong academic reputation in Indonesia but also offers an environment parents value. “The parents of Indonesian students feel good that their children are in a strong, safe Christian environment at Loyola,” Aaker says. “With their children 5,000 miles away, that’s important.”

Second is Indonesia’s culture of religious tolerance. Indonesia is the world’s third most populous democracy, and 88 percent of its people are Muslim, making it the world’s largest Muslim country. “Muslims here respect others’ religion,” he says. “There is a more open religious culture, even though there are more Muslims here than anywhere else.”

In his work, Aaker clearly sees Indonesia’s economic potential. But he also believes it promises a bright future for LMU. “In the next 10–20 years, Indonesia will have many strengths and demographic dividends to build on, just as China and India have had. So LMU, which already has a good reputation here, can build from strength to strength.”