UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- “There is no doubt about it,” Penn State President Eric Barron said, “it doesn’t matter which facet of University life you have -- research, teaching, service -- it is enriched by international experience.”
The view of integrating Penn State’s global mission through all three aspects of the University is reflected in the Global Engagement Network (GEN), which is the primary engine for powering a Global Penn State. GEN is best described as a network of select strategic partners that supports and promotes all dimensions of the University’s internationalization strategy.
The three dimensions are: to enhance and diversify the education abroad enterprise; to increase and diversify the international student population; and to build transformational global strategic partners around the world.
“As we solidified our strategic networks, it became apparent that we needed support on the ground,” said Michael Adewumi, vice provost for Global Programs and leader of the GEN initiative. “We have officially opened a center in Pune, India, and in Burkina Faso, West Africa. We have facilitators at the centers and they are ready to connect student, faculty, and research interests. We are working towards opening centers in Freiburg University, Germany, and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, by the end of 2015.”
“There are significant institutional advantages to having long-term partnerships and a permanent presence in a region, but it is the faculty and students who derive the most benefit from these centers,” said Adewumi. “The centers not only provide logistical support, they connect faculty to local public and private sector organizations, conduct cultural programming and assist in finding research, education and service opportunities for engaging local communities and academic institutions. The centers enrich the academic experience, while freeing faculty to focus on their objectives.”
Jeffrey Brownson, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering, is taking the lead for Penn State on several solar energy projects with 2iE International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Burkina Faso. And Nicole Webster, associate professor of youth and international development, is leading the development of several collaborative projects around mentoring programs for women students at 2iE and high schools around Ouagadougou, the capital of that country.
“I am a Penn State employee,” said Jessica Ouedraogo, assistant director of student engagement and administration of the 2iE-Penn State Centre for Collaborative Engagement, “but I live in West Africa. In this new role I wear many hats. I am here as a connecting point, an adviser, and cultivator of the relationships for the joint center and its activities.”
Ouedraogo worked for several years in the university office of Global Programs at University Park, but recently returned to Burkina Faso to run the center at 2iE. “I am here to help facilitate all kinds of engagement including faculty, staff and students. Anyone interested in being part of that engagement may simply reach out to me for assistance in creating the most appropriate links between Penn State and 2iE.”
At the recent launch of the center at the Pune University, India, Madlyn Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses, Mukund Kulkarni and Gary Lawler, chancellors of Harrisburg and Hazleton respectively, and Collins Airhihenbuwa, professor and head, BioBehavioral Health, joined Adewumi in support of the center and discussions about building a global health network led by Airhihenbuwa.
“We are seeking to establish multi-dimensional partnerships across the University and abroad,” said Adewumi. “When GEN succeeds in engaging and transforming a broad spectrum of Penn State faculty, global engagement will be an integral part of our normal academic enterprise and processes. I see these centers as another step closer towards realizing the vision of being a truly global university by helping to support those initiatives on a practical level.”
Any faculty or staff who are interested in finding out more or connecting with one of the centers are encouraged to email Michael Madeira, who manages the Joint Center Initiative.