UNE strengthens links with leading US university

Published 25 February 2010

psuThe University of New England and Penn State University (PSU) in the United States have announced an agreement to pursue joint research projects and research funding, and to explore the potential for shared courses and exchanges of staff and students.

PSU (pictured here) is one of the leading universities in the United States, and shares many research and teaching interests with UNE. In part, this is because of a shared history of working closely with rural communities.

The collaborative relationship, which has been developing for several years, entered a new phase this month with the visit to UNE of Ted Alter, Professor of Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Economics in PSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Professor Alter worked with teams across the University and around the Northern Tablelands to develop a detailed plan for realising the aspirations in a “letter of intent” that has been signed by both institutions.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, said that the University was committed to fostering its relationship with PSU – a relationship that enhanced UNE’s portfolio of national and international collaboration on issues of regional development, agricultural innovation, and environmental conservation.

Professor Alter spent three weeks at UNE, where he was based in the Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law as a guest of the Centre’s Director, Professor Paul Martin, and his colleagues. He not only had detailed discussions with researchers and administrators throughout the University, but also gained an understanding of the environmental, industrial and social issues affecting New England communities.

During a seminar at UNE on the outcomes of his visit, he said that the similarities and differences between the two universities and their respective communities offered many opportunities for collaboration. “There are many complementarities between our two universities, and some exceptional mutually-beneficial opportunities for collaborative research initiatives on important disciplinary and public issues salient in Australia, the United States, and globally,” Professor Alter said. He went on to identify 10 specific areas in which fruitful collaboration could be possible.

Among several collaborative ventures already under way, he said, were joint involvement in research on international biofuels law and policy, development of new distance education technologies and methods, improved approaches to natural resource management, and improvements to the cost-effectiveness of rural environmental law.

Professor Martin, who has led the development of this relationship on behalf of UNE, said he believed the essence of the relationship was in building close personal links between committed researchers at UNE and PSU. “With Ted’s visit we have cemented a number of relationships that span many areas of interest to both universities,” he said. “We are now developing a plan that will see these converted into excellent scholarship and an even greater impact of the work of UNE in our region – and across Australia.”

“An important area of collaboration that spans the work of both institutions is the growing interest in ‘engaged scholarship’ – an emerging field of research and practice that aims to bring together the community service, research and teaching roles of academics to support the communities in which they work,” Professor Martin said. “Professor Alter suggested that a joint research centre concerned with innovation, adoption and engagement would be one way to give this shared interest a strong focus.”

Professor Martin said he was grateful to Professor Alter and his colleagues in PSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences for their commitment to creating this important relationship.

Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a photograph of Professor Ted Alter (left) and Professor Jim Barber signing the “letter of intent” marking the new phase of the collaborative relationship.