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MISSOULA — The search for a permanent director for the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center has taken nearly two years, but now the search is over.

Starting in September, the center will be guided by Terry Weidner, the current director of the Asian Affairs Center and the Missouri International Training Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Weidner said he is eager to begin his new duties at the University of Montana, and looks forward to helping the center boost its reputation of excellence for work regarding Asian issues, global understanding and ethics in public affairs.

"There are good jobs and good places, but rarely do you find both together," Weidner said.

For the past several years Weidner and his wife, Kari, have been talking about moving closer to their family in Spokane. It was a stroke of luck, he said, when he learned of the center's search for a director.

UM President George Dennison said he believes Weidner is a good fit for the job.

Weidner is an Asian scholar who specializes in China. While in his current position, Weidner has strengthened the University of Missouri's Asian curriculum and Asia-related research; forged relationships with partner institutions in China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Korea; crafted symposiums and programming about key Asia-related issues; and as adjunct professor, taught a course titled "Doing Business in China" at the University of Columbia College of Business.

He has a doctoral degree in Chinese history from the University of California, Davis, a master's in Far Eastern studies from the University of Michigan, and speaks Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish and some Japanese.

Weidner said he is honored to lead UM's center, named for Mike Mansfield, a former U.S. senator, ambassador to Japan, UM history professor and Montana resident.

"I have long admired Mike Mansfield," he said.

His goal, Weidner said, is to help push the center into the limelight.

"I have always been mystified that the center doesn't have a better reputation nationwide," Weidner. "I hope to put a spotlight on it."

Since the center's longtime director Phil West abruptly resigned from the post in December 2001, two different interim directors have guided it for the past two years.

Because of that, Weidner said his first task will be to get the center's internal workings operating smoothly.

"What I intend to do is to talk to a lot of people who know and work with this center and start from zero — figure out what makes sense and what we need to make this center stronger."

As the center strengthens, Weidner said he plans on doing community outreach and teaching.

"I won't be hiding out," he said.

The purpose of UM's Mansfield Center is to create a clearer understanding of our interdependent world, where three of every five people are Asian. Weidner said he' s looking forward to helping the center achieve its mission.

"That the center combines public affairs and ethics is very appealing to me given this era we live in," he said. "I'm excited to be there."