"Dispatches from Europe" Blog Contest

Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!

Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic Blogs

The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!

Ringing the Bells at the Banner of Peace

Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.

Zach Grotovsky's Summer 2013: 14 Cities, 15 Weeks, One Long Adventure

University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.

Polar Bears

The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!

Peaceful Opposition in Izmir

MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Students the Way of the Future

Erica Rose is Coordinator and Advocacy Secretary for International Students at Stockholm University in Sweden. Erica visited the University of Illinois as part of a delegation from Stockholm University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Karolinska Institutet for April's INSPIRE Summit. During her trip, she maintained a travel blog. The last entry, which is posted below, includes a discussion about the opportunities at the University of Illinois for studying the European Union through the EUC.

by Erica Rose

This is it, the final chapter in the trip across the pond. There was so much to take in I think it was good to have a break in between blogs (ok-this is more of a novel than a blog) and sort out the highlight of the trip that will benefit both Swedish and international students. Now where to begin, maybe the beginning of the day?

On the second day I was taking the elevator down to breakfast to meet some other delegates from Stockholm University when the president of KTH and the President of KI (Karolinska Institute) came into the elevator. I said hi and introduced myself and we all went to the breakfast area. I thought that would be the last time I would talk to them but I was wrong. As I went to sit down at a table near Stockholm University, the server must have thought that the two people I was talking with were also with me, so he put menus down for them right where I was sitting. Thinking it would be a quiet breakfast, I instead ended up eating breakfast and trying to speak Swedish (which is not easy to do early in the morning) with both presidents. –Which proves that you never know what´s going to happen- 9 months ago I was working in daycare trying to read in Swedish to one and two year olds- to sitting and eating breakfast with two of the presidents from some of the biggest universities in Sweden. Not bad for a Tuesday morning…

After that interesting morning, I went about the day and learned about what Stockholm University and University of Illinois (UofI) are setting up for you regarding jobs on campus, clubs, and studying the EU with an American twist. Again, the possibilities are endless.

For one, looking for a job on campus can be tough, and sometimes not always glorious (selling coffee, cleaning, etc.). But at the UofI, you can not only study but actually work in a field of your study right on campus. (And yes, even students from outside the US can use their study visas to work at these well known companies on campus.) It´s called Research Parks at U of I, where companies such as Yahoo, Autonomic Materials (self healing paint anyone?) and Deere & Company hire students to work or for internships. A real job on campus? now that´s pretty cool. While working for a big company is interesting, the Research Park also helps students with start up companies and has helped over 127 since 2001. (Research Park) To have a university offering real positions on campus gives you a leg up on everyone else when starting in the work force.  And not only that, the Swedish-American Chambers of Commerce is looking to get jobs for Swedish students coming to the USA, and vice versa. Sweden may be a small country, but they have some big friends elsewhere.

Secondly, I know I am always trying to push students to join clubs, but sometimes there may not always be a club out there that you think is for you. At UofI, this is not a problem as there are over 1,100 registered clubs on campus with a budget of $10 million dollars. Price is Right Fan Club, Archery, Board Game, Cooking, or Insomiac clubs? There is a club for someone and everyone.

Lastly, you can even study a couple courses or even the Masters on the EU at the European Union Centre. And yes, this EU Centre is officially certified by the EU Commision. Now you´re probably thinking, I come from the EU, why would I study that abroad? Well if learning about the EU with an American twist, seminars with guest lecturers such as Ambassador of Estonia and EU, UN interpreter, professors from around the world, international movie nights and multiple language courses options doesn´t pull you in, how about the chance to work or intern at an EU office in Washington or a trade office in Brussels? As one of the original 10 EU centres opened in the States, the EU Centre at UofI is opening doors for students that can benefit both students coming to Stockholm and studying abroad.

So in all, what I have learned the INSPIRE Summit at University of Illinois in collaboration with Stockholm University, KTH and KI is that it could really opening up the doors for students from many different disciplines from all over the world. The amount of interdisciplinary courses, shared research programs, job opportunities and internships that will be provided to students because of this increased cooperation between the universities will not only improve students quality of education and access to programs, but increase Stockholm University´s standing and make it a world competitor. This can only be possible if students at all universities involved show a willingness to participate. Students need to get involved in their education process on campus, studying abroad, and even looking at other universities to see if a collboration between the two is possible. Administration can take away the red taped barriers, but it is up to the students to take these opportunities to get involved and make a difference what ever and where ever you are studying.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Anna Stenport Discusses INSPIRE

INSPIRE, the Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational and Research Exchange, is a program with the goal of establishing a transnational partnership alliance between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) and three leading research universities in Stockholm, Sweden. INSPIRE is funded in part by European Union Center grants, and EUC-affiliated faculty members are at the forefront of the initiative. One affiliated faculty member and an INSPIRE faculty liaison, Anna 
Westerståhl Stenport, was interviewed for the April 19 edition of Inside Illinois to discuss INSPIRE. Check out the full article below or by clicking here.

by Mike Helenthal

The odds are good you won’t see an umlaut above the university’s legendary “Block-I” logo anytime soon.

But an Urbana campus summit with the leaders of three prestigious Swedish universities April 25-26 shows just how big a partnership with Sweden is becoming.

“It’s innovative and unique,” said Tim Barnes, director of the year-old Illinois Strategic International Partnerships. “There’s never been anything like this; we are looking to build very broad and deep collaborations, sustained over time, of mutual benefits, and which affect all of the core missions of the partner institutions.”

The summit’s origins go back two years, after officials from Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology approached university officials about investigating a mutually beneficial academic partnership.

An agreement was signed and the consortium held a symposium on the Urbana campus in 2010, and a second at KTH last May in Stockholm, attended by a contingent of more than 40 UI faculty members and academic leaders. The effort also led UI leaders to form the Illinois Strategic International Partnerships and its pilot program, INSPIRE, Illinois-Sweden Program for Educational and Research Exchange.

The upcoming summit will continue facilitating the search for identifiable, cross-disciplinary collaborations, but it also could lay the foundation for an expansion of the INSPIRE partnership to include two of Sweden’s other prestigious universities, Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet.

Leaders of the two institutions, which already have extensive collaborations with KTH in strategic areas, also will participate in the symposium, as will civic leaders invited from both countries.

“They are basically the CEOs of these universities and it’s very unusual to have them all together in the same place,” Barnes said.

Mirror images

Barnes said adding the institutions to the consortium would broaden its academic reach and round out the partnership, considering Stockholm University features comprehensive liberal arts, natural science, law and education programs, and Karolinska Institutet is a world-class medical research and teaching university.

“We see great opportunities that align with campus priorities,” Barnes said. “We’re all looking at the same science questions and it makes great sense to look at some of these things together.”

In all, the Swedish three-campus footprint is very comparable to the UI structure, with 70,000 students and a broad realm of academic and research activity. 

“The (April) symposium is all about trying to foster those interconnections,” Barnes said, noting that higher-education research partnerships normally form at the personal level – an inherent weakness that makes them difficult to sustain over time. He said that’s why university officials have worked so hard to ensure the Swedish partnership – and others in the future – goes beyond one-to-one contacts and becomes integrated throughout the institution.

“It takes the will and desire of the individual faculty and departments to make those connections really happen,” he said. “Then it’s a matter of corralling them and pulling them all together. By pooling our limited resources we can do much bigger things. It becomes mutually beneficial if you do it right.”

Urbana Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise said partnerships such as the one with Swedish education leaders are tantamount to sustaining the UI’s world-renown reputation.

“These types of partnerships can have an almost exponential effect,” Wise said. “And not only do they lead to new relationships and research that produce new and innovative ideas and partnerships, they create answers.”

Beyond the obvious academic benefits, the defined partnership with Sweden’s top universities presents cost-saving, economy of scale opportunities and a regional presence with a European Union member, Wise said.

“Our future as a top-tier research university depends on maintaining global pre-eminence in an ever-changing competitive environment,” she said. “That can only be achieved by reaching out, discovering new opportunities and then adding our footprints.”

Barnes said the partnership is further enhanced by the fact that Sweden has a high population of English speakers. The country also is ranked among the highest in the world for its investment in research and development (as a percentage of gross domestic product) and the number of citizens who hold doctoral degrees, on a per capita basis.

“We’re looking at the INSPIRE alliance as a kind of gateway to Europe,” he said. “The university hasn’t had a go-to partnership like this that can take advantage of connections within the European Union.”

Teams approach

Collaborations between researchers at the two institutions started forming prior to the first meeting, according to two Urbana professors serving as faculty liaisons and involved with the INSPIRE process since its inception.

In fact, already there are more than two dozen collaborative projects being conducted between UI and Stockholm researchers alone. One of the projects with the most immediate impact is a joint interdisciplinary and co-taught class on the Arctic and climate change. The class is being offered at KTH over the summer.

The course, co-taught by a multidisciplinary team of Illinois and KTH faculty members, will provide UI students from a variety of programs with a well-rounded, multifaceted consideration of climate change and its effects on the Arctic, culminating with an up-front view through fieldwork in the Arctic circle, at a facility in the Svalbard archipelago.

Another new project has teamed researchers of the Illinois Rail Transportation and Engineering Center with the KTH Railway Group. The partnership led to a workshop last November and eventually could aid in the development of a federally proposed high-speed rail system in Illinois.

“A core feature of the two previous strategic research symposia was the comprehensive engagement across multiple colleges, schools and faculties, including engineering, natural and social sciences, arts and the humanities,” said Anna WesterstÃ¥hl Stenport, a professor of Germanic languages and literatures and the director of the UI’s Scandinavian Program, who is currently on sabbatical at Stanford University.

She said those engagement possibilities will continue to be actively pursued at the April summit.

“Sweden and the U.S. both have a lot to gain from close collaboration in higher education,” she said. “INSPIRE is another way for faculty and students to gain access to more resources and help provide additional opportunities for global impact and significance. We know our Swedish partners see the partnership as a reciprocal opportunity to collaborate with a top U.S. research institution.”

Harry Dankowicz, a Cannon Faculty Scholar in mechanical science and engineering, a professor in the UI’s Information Trust Institute and a graduate of KTH, said he could see from the first meeting between the institutions that great things would arise from it.

“It became clear from the initial handshake that there was a natural match here,” he said. “Although one might have been content with a narrowly defined exchange agreement, that wasn’t the final destination of this partnership.”

One particularly innovative feature of the partnership, he said, is the integration of the core missions of the four universities: education, research, public engagement and economic development.

“By attending to the interest of all our stakeholders, namely students, faculty and the commercial and civic societies of the state of Illinois and Sweden, we aim to build an alliance that can provide global leadership in higher education, research collaboration and civic engagement,” Dankowicz said. “The upcoming April summit is an opportunity to bring these strategic components of the partnership into focus.”

Stenport said she sees a positive trajectory in the partnership as it gains momentum.

“The partnership is already adding value on campus,” she said. “Next steps will be to implement it as a valuable alliance across many different disciplinary areas. There is the potential to have a critical impact on the issues facing both countries, as well as the entire world.”