A leading US academic and research institution, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has announced a new program aimed at promoting international understanding through partnerships between international universities and multinational corporations. 

McDonnell International Scholars Academy will initially bring scholars and researchers from 15 Asian universities to study at Washington University. Eventually the program will expand to up to 100 students from 50 universities around the world.

Program officials hope to nurture international cooperation by creating a global network of scholars, researchers and business and government leaders. Washington University officials say such cooperation is necessary to combat global issues such as infectious disease and poverty. At the same time, corporate sponsors see the initiative as an opportunity to attract some of the world's brightest students, especially in the sciences.

The program will also help make Americans more aware of the global nature of the world around them, says John Danforth, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Danforth, who served three terms as the U.S. Senator from Missouri, serves on the advisory committee for the  McDonnell International Scholars Academy. Mr. Danforth says the academic world is the natural place for cooperation, innovation and a free exchange of ideas.

"The world is shrinking. The economy is international,"Mr. Danforth says. "Global security is international. Even the world of disease, witness the threat of the avian flu, is international. It is no use hoping that somehow this will stop. So it is extremely important to understand reality and it is extremely important to relate to the world around us.

The students will receive full tuition, stipends and funds to travel to their home countries once a year.

The program is being launched with a $10 million endowment from a foundation set up by the founders of the McDonnell Douglas, which merged with the Boeing company to become the wolrd's largest Aerospace company.