The importance of international partnerships

Originally published in the 2015 edition of Innovation magazine

In South America, a new university is modeling its curriculum after the Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s. In China, another university has asked for Purdue Polytechnic’s assistance in preparing for growth in that country’s aviation industry. In Europe, academic partnerships are expanding to include work experiences for study abroad students. International programs have experienced a lot of growth in a year’s time, but behind the scenes, each project has taken significant time and planning to ensure students and the institutions are served well.

"We've really tried to come up with multiple opportunities for our students to seamlessly have a global experience. To that end, we’ve reached out to strategic partner locations," says Robert Cox, associate dean for globalization for Purdue Polytechnic.

The partner locations are more numerous than the large projects the college has undertaken. The locations include universities on all continents with exchange programs for students and faculty, research initiatives, dual and multiple degree options, and more.

The partnerships are simply the latest in a growing network that will provide immersive, exciting global opportunities for Purdue Polytechnic students and faculty.

“Once we’ve established a footprint and structure in those areas, we can start talking about what other college or University programs would fit,” Cox says.


UTEC, a Peruvian university that Purdue Polytechnic helped create, celebrated its opening in December 2014. The founders of UTEC — the University of Engineering and Technology — relied on Purdue’s faculty expertise to design the university’s curriculum in applied engineering. With the help of several Purdue faculty trips and an on-site director, UTEC initially intends to offer bachelor’s degree programs in energy engineering, electronics engineering and mechanical engineering.

In addition, the curriculum will allow UTEC students to apply for admission to earn a second bachelor’s degree with a fifth year of schooling at Purdue. The first UTEC students are expected to enroll at Purdue for the fall semester 2016. Gary Bertoline, dean of Purdue Polytechnic, attended UTEC’s opening celebration in Lima, Peru, along with Robert Cox, associate dean for globalization, and Mike Brzezinski, Purdue’s dean of international programs.

“The vision of UTEC’s founder and leaders is inspiring, and I’m extremely excited that they asked us to be a major partner in this endeavor,” Bertoline says. “It’s a rare opportunity to start a program from scratch, and our faculty and staff have worked hard to help make the university and its programs a reality.”

Before his retirement as international programs officer, Purdue’s Don Buskirk served as the resident director for the UTEC partnership. Other faculty from the School of Engineering Technology have taught courses, offered workshops and mentored UTEC faculty.

In all, Purdue Polytechnic will have helped implement 10-12 courses from its School of Engineering Technology curriculum at UTEC. A UTEC student who takes those courses will be able to apply for a fifth year at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus and earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology or electrical engineering technology.

The Purdue-UTEC partnership is larger than its connection to Purdue Polytechnic. Brzezinski has been involved with the partnership for several years.

“I was pleased to represent Purdue’s International Programs at the UTEC campus inauguration and experience firsthand the wonderful facilities,” he says. “There will be significant opportunities for our students and faculty alike once it is fully functioning. I am particularly excited about study abroad options for our students.”

Additional programs

As part of Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ Purdue Moves initiatives, there is a strong push to increase the likelihood that students campus wide will graduate with international experiences on their resume. Purdue Polytechnic has accepted the challenge with these and other programs.

In fact, Purdue signed an agreement with the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, in March. Cox will be the University liaison for the partnership, which could include curriculum development with the college and several other collaborations across Purdue.

Cox has worked with international industry partners as well to incorporate work experience components with student exchange programs. For six months this year, Taylor Hansen, an electrical engineering technology major at Purdue, worked part-time for Schenck Process in Darmstadt, Germany, while attending Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences (aka Hochschule Darmstadt).

“I believed the experience would be a strong selling point for my post-graduation career search,” Hansen says. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to become a part of Schenck Process. I put myself in a challenging situation so that I could grow, and the experiences are helping me sharpen different kinds of skills.”

During the past academic year, the college hosted more than 30 visiting scholars. More than 170 students took part in an international experience as part of short-term, faculty-led program or a semester-long exchange. Ten students studied for a semester at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland; and seven others studied at the Dublin Institute of Technology. In all, 35 students took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester.

“Anything worth doing right, especially globally, takes long-term commitment; and you never want a false start. It takes so much due diligence,” Cox says. “We are doing things that have never been done on this campus. Not only do we have a desire to be in that location and work with the collaboration partners, but also the University has to approve it and do its due diligence. We’re creating effective systems to manage the globalization of our college and also all of campus.”


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