Minot State University making Scandinavian connections
Minot State University President David Fuller and other academic officers visited Scandinavia, June 1-9, to explore and establish partnerships for international study. MSU's efforts were in support of a visit by a Minot delegation to its sister city of Skien in Norway. On June 1, 17 ambassadors from the Minot area departed for the beautiful Telemark region.
Joining Fuller and his wife, Nancy, in representing MSU were Gary Rabe, vice president for academic affairs, JoAnn Linrud, dean of the College of Business, Neil Nordquist, dean of the College of Education and Health Sciences, Linda Cresap, dean of the Graduate School, and Libby Claerbout, director of international programs. The entire Minot group was present for a signing ceremony on June 5 with Telemark University College at its Posgrunn campus. A memorandum of agreement was signed by Dag Bjerketvedt, rector of TUC, and Fuller. Among other representatives of Telemark were Knut Duesund, vice rector, and Nils Røttingen, university college director.
Telemark University College is the fifth largest of the 25 state university colleges in Norway and has four campuses with about 4,500 full-time students. TUC offers a number of programs taught in English that MSU undergraduate students could take including Scandinavian studies, sport and outdoor life, Alpine ecology-environmental management, physical education, human technology design, Norwegian folk music, culture and dialogue, and care for the aging. It also has two full master's programs in engineering and inland water quality assessment. In the afternoon, the delegation visited the second Telemark campus located in the city of Bø. Fuller said the parallels between the Bø campus and MSU-Bottineau were striking. The Bø campus has about 500 students and is situated in a rural area with rolling hills. "I think some great things are going to come out of the partnership with Telemark," said Fuller. "Skien officials are very interested in helping us because of its proximity to Posgrunn and Bø."
An interesting coincidence is that Telemark University College has a 2013 goal to become a full university. MSU's new strategic plan "Vision 2013" includes a number of initiatives to be completed by 2013, the year of Minot State's centennial. Other goals of Telemark include increasing the number of students to 5,000 and the number of incoming and outgoing exchange students to 150 per year. Telemark's other two campuses are located in Notodden and Rauland in Norway.
Other similarities between MSU and Telemark include small campuses, comparable student numbers, friendly and helpful faculty and staff, modern facilities, and locations in communities of comfortable size that don't overwhelm students. Afterward the Fullers and the rest of the MSU contingent traveled separately. The Fullers headed to Denmark, while the remainder visited two colleges in Norway - American College of Norway in Moss and Ostvold University in Halden. They wrapped up their higher education outreach in Sweden at Kristianstad University. Minot State University already has an agreement in place with Kristianstad. It was established earlier in the year through the efforts of Linrud. Two students from KU will be studying business at Minot State beginning spring term in January 2008, and they had the opportunity to meet those visiting from MSU.
Kristianstad University has about 10,000 students and is located in a town center with about 28,000 residents and another 47,000 residing in the surrounding area. Every department at KU offers some classes in English and all business courses are offered in English. The business department hosts about 35 to 40 international students each semester. Other possible areas of collaboration include teacher education and nursing.
In Denmark, the Fullers visited Aalborg University (AAU) which held great interest for Fuller. AAU has positioned itself as a leader in following new paths within research and education. As a result, it uses innovative ways of cooperating with the surrounding world at a local as well as national and international level.
"They have a program in place where faculty and students work together to solve problems, similar to service learning," Fuller said. "It's very much like what our strategic plan is looking at doing. Aalborg assigns interdisciplinary groups of three to 10 people to study issues that have been identified as important."
AAU offers more than 60 academic programs and numbers about 14,000 students. Fuller anticipates that an agreement with Aalborg University will be finalized soon. The president said that the Scandinavian trip was very positive overall. MSU officials were able to meet with and identify a number of institutions interested in academic collaborations and exchange of faculty and students.
"This has such potential if we do it right," said Fuller of the higher education partnerships. "For a perspective faculty member or student who has not had an international experience, the Scandinavian countries would provide a level of comfort that would allay any concerns they may have."
As an example he said most Scandinavians are fluent in English, having started training in the third grade, and are very friendly, helpful and courteous. As well as being located within spectacular surroundings and scenery, Fuller said the Scandinavian countries are immaculate.
Minot State University currently also has partnerships with SIAS International University in China and Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey.
The MSU president said that one of his goals is to give students significant places to experience other cultures. "It's not that we're trying to collect partnerships," he said. "We're really trying to target some key areas in the world that students can explore."
The two MSU groups rejoined the remaining sister-city delegates in Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 8 and returned to Minot the following day.