When then U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed guests to the first U.S.-ASEAN Summit hosted by the United States in early 2016, he recognized the growing economic and geopolitical importance of Southeast Asia and the 10 individual nations that make up the half-century-old Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Few regions present more opportunity to the 21st century than the Asia Pacific," Obama said at the opening session of the summit. "That's why, early in my presidency, I decided that the United States, as a Pacific nation, would rebalance our foreign policy and play a larger and long-term role in the Asia Pacific. And this has included engagement with Southeast Asia and ASEAN, which is central to the region's peace and prosperity."

Established in 1967, ASEAN encompasses 10 countries: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. These countries have a total population of nearly 640 million people. It's been said that if ASEAN were a single country, it would be the world's fifth-largest economy. In 2014, the U.S. and the 10 ASEAN nations traded more than $250 billion in goods and services, representing about 8 percent of all U.S. trade and making ASEAN our nation's fourth-largest trading partner.

Description of the following video:

[Words appear in lower-right corner: Indiana University presents]

[Video: A boat on a river in Thailand is seen jetting through the water. Part of the Bangkok skyline can be seen behind it. The sun is beginning to set.]
Marty Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: ASEAN has been transformative in many different ways.
[Video: A modern Bangkok skyline. The sun is setting behind it.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: It has been transformative in terms of changing the dynamics in the relationship amongst countries of Southeast Asia.
[Video: A map of Southeast Asia. The countries that make up ASEAN are highlighted.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: Before ASEAN, countries of Southeast Asia -- we were very much in a state of conflict …
[Video: Natalegawa appears on camera.]
[Words appear: Marty Natalegawa, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia]
Natalegawa speaks: …and tensions and marked by a sense of distrust with one another. But five decades of ASEAN have transformed fundamentally the relationship…
[Video: Natalegawa is at The Asia Foundation meeting. He is speaking at a podium.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: … because it matters in the sense of being able to create peace in this part of the world, but matters in terms of providing opportunities…
[Video: Traffic in downtown Bangkok. The city skyline can be seen, with Thai flags blowing in the wind.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: … for commerce, for people-to-people interaction, that is mutually beneficial …
[Video: Natalegawa appears on camera.]
Natalegawa speaks: …and of … to the mutual interest of both sides.
[Video: A sign for the Chulalongkorn University Museum.]
David Carden speaks in voiceover: The real challenge for ASEAN is it has all the governance structures in place that …
[Video: Two female students in white blouses and navy skirts walk along Chulalongkorn University's campus. Trees can be seen in front of them.
Carden speaks in voiceover: … it needs to have. It has the people that need it to act.
[Video: Carden appears on camera.]
[Words appear: David Carden, IU alumnus, former U.S. ambassador to ASEAN]
Carden speaks: What it needs to do is to have the leadership in order to implement those ideas. It also has to be flexible. It has to be prepared to address the problems that are coming down the road, not only at ASEAN, …
[Video: Aerial footage of Columbus, Indiana.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: … but in our own county, and countries around the world.
[Video: Crops blow in the wind on a rural, Midwest farm.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: Many of the problems that were in Southeast Asia are problems that actually are in Indiana.
[Video: Aerial footage of a farm in rural Indiana.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: And for that reason, the same approach…
[Video: Carden appears on camera.]
Carden speaks: … is the right approach, in my view: …
[Video: Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie speaks at The Asia Foundation meeting.
Carden speaks in voiceover: … to get the best information we can, to do the research that needs to be done, …
[Video: A panel at The Asia Foundation meeting. Carden is speaking.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: … to implement real, practical responses.
[Video: Natalegawa appears on camera.]
Natalegawa speaks on camera: Just to underscore the importance of the type of project that Indiana University is undertaking in reaching out, and …
[Video: An ASEAN Global Gateway Office plaque.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: … enhancing its presence in the region. I can't overemphasize …
[Video: Bangkok city skyline at sunset.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: … how tremendously important that is in terms of developing partnership, helping consolidate our gain, to make ASEAN matter for people …
[Video: Natalegawa and Carden are seen speaking at The Asia Foundation meeting. Carden is holding a microphone.]
Natalegawa speaks in voiceover: … in the United States.
[Video: Carden appears on camera.]
Carden speaks: Indiana University is a leader, in my view, in that respect. Not only is it a major research university, but it's actually using its capacities to research these kinds of -- the region of Southern …
[Video: A close-up of a train track. A moving train can be seen in the distance.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: … Indiana, for example, in regard to the Center for Rural Engagement, …
Video: Aerial footage of a farm in rural Indiana.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: … and so, these are the kinds of things that universities can do, …
Video: Aerial footage of downtown Bloomington, Indiana. The city's main square and courthouse can be seen.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: … it's not the kind of thing they always do do, …
[Video: Aerial footage of Indiana University's campus.]
Carden speaks in voiceover: … but Indiana University is doing it, and I am very proud of that fact.
[Screen goes to black]
[IU trident appears]
[Words appear: Indiana University]
[Words appear: Fulfilling the promise]
[Words appear: iu.edu]

IU's engagement in the ASEAN region

Given ASEAN's expanding economic and geopolitical importance, our country's leaders in government, business, education and the nonprofit sector continue to expend major effort into building positive relationships between the U.S. and ASEAN member nations. And for several years now, Indiana University has been dedicated to expanding its longstanding engagement in Southeast Asia and with ASEAN.

This academic year alone, IU has about 430 students who hail from eight of the 10 ASEAN countries, and in recent years the university has had students from every ASEAN nation represented at IU. (IU's goal is to have all 10 ASEAN nations represented concurrently at the university in future years.) An enhanced recruitment strategy has helped lead to a 28 percent increase in applications to the IU Bloomington campus from the ASEAN region overall.

IU also continues to see substantial increases in IU domestic students choosing to do a period of study abroad in Southeast Asia. These students, many of whom call the Hoosier state their home, are increasingly drawn to a region of the world that exerts enormous influence on economic, environmental, humanitarian, political and security affairs affecting all nations.

IU has dramatically increased its research and teaching capacity in Southeast Asia. This includes the recent establishment of the Southeast Asian and ASEAN Studies Program, located at the IU Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, which is dedicated to fostering a greater and more comprehensive understanding of Southeast Asia, its people, languages and cultures through a wide variety of academic opportunities.

The Hamilton Lugar School, IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences, and many of IU's professional schools also maintain strong partnerships and exchange programs with numerous universities throughout Southeast Asia while regularly seeking new relationships with academic programs and centers across the region's major cities.

Last month, the university opened IU's newest international office in Thailand, the IU ASEAN Gateway, which will serve as IU's home base in the region. Located in the center of Thailand's capital city of Bangkok, the office will provide valuable support for research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad opportunities for IU students and engagement with IU alumni, businesses and nongovernmental organizations.

All of this has resulted in IU increasingly being recognized as a leader in scholarship, research and engagement concerning Southeast Asia. As part of a trip by IU President Michael A. McRobbie to Thailand in March, the IU ASEAN Gateway co-hosted a panel discussion with the not-for-profit Asia Foundation on the strategic importance of international engagement with ASEAN. The panel also discussed how international partners, like IU and other top universities, could help ASEAN be a steadying force in this dynamic region of the world, one with a long history of discord and volatility given the widely diverse cultural, political and religious composition of its membership.

A distinguished guest panel included IU Maurer School of Law alumnus David Carden, who served from 2011 to 2013 as the first resident ambassador of the U.S. to ASEAN; Gareth Evans, former foreign minister of Australia and chancellor of the Australian National University, who was named one of the "Top 100 Global Thinkers" in 2011 by Foreign Policy magazine and who has served as a Diplomat in Residence at IU; and Marty Natalegawa, former ambassador and foreign minister of Indonesia, who is the author of an acclaimed new book on ASEAN titled "Does ASEAN Matter? A View From Within." McRobbie offered welcoming remarks to the conference attendees, which included at least seven former international ambassadors and representatives from over 20 embassies around the world.

For those in attendance, IU's co-leadership of the conference -- and especially the establishment of a permanent physical presence in the region with the IU ASEAN Gateway office -- offered welcome assurance that our nation's top international institutions are still intently focused on ASEAN, which has a long history of shaping the terms of engagement in Southeast Asia, including during moments of disruptive change.

"We live in a time when strident voices around the globe would have nations shut themselves off from the rest of the world just when the need to understand it and engage with it is at its most acute and urgent," McRobbie said in his opening remarks. "

This opportunity to gather with leading foreign policy voices for discussion about the future of ASEAN and its relationship with the global community, then, is not only timely, but it will also give us enormously important insight into the future of international engagement in the region."