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K-State Today

December 19, 2012

Monthly letter to campus from President Schulz: Australia initiatives update

Submitted by Kirk Schulz

Kirk Schulz

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Another semester has finished and the holiday season is upon us. Kansas State will be closed for several days during the holiday break, and I hope each of you has some time away from work for reflection and relaxation.

Last year, I sent a letter to campus describing some new initiatives we were undertaking in Australia, and I referenced a short document, which provided some context for why we might want to have a larger Kansas State presence there. This month, I would like to update everyone on our Australia initiative and what I see as the next steps to take our partnership with Australia to the next level. 

During my trip to Australia in November, I had the opportunity to meet with several leading government officials in Canberra (the federal capital) about opportunities in Kansas. Interestingly, there is a strong push in Australia to foster more relationships with universities and industries in the Midwestern part of the United States. Indeed, the U.S. ambassador to Australia was particularly pleased to see Kansas State being aggressive about growing our presence in the "Land Down Under."

As we look toward the future of Kansas State as outlined in K-State 2025, international partnerships will be key to providing enhanced opportunities for our faculty, staff and students. I want to be sure our undergraduate students have a variety of study abroad destinations to choose from that will enrich their K-State educational experience. In addition to study abroad and student exchange partnerships, I want to ensure we also develop research partnerships that will enhance the scholarship opportunities for our faculty, staff and graduate students. In order to facilitate these types of partnerships, it is important we provide institutional support to facilitate research partnerships, opportunities for sabbaticals, and joint research proposal submissions. I believe these international partnerships are critical to meeting our goal of a Top 50 public research university.

Kansas State University is one of the key partners in the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), which is a research partnership between academia, industry, and the Australian Commonwealth and State Governments. The mission of the Plant Biosecurity CRC is to "develop and deploy scientific knowledge, tools, resources and capacity to safeguard Australia, its plant industries and regional communities from the economic, environmental and social consequences of damaging invasive plant pests and diseases." The CRC was recently renewed for a six-year timeframe, with Kansas State's Department of Plant Pathology and the BRI bringing significant research strengths to the CRC consortium. With our formal inclusion in the Plant Biosecurity CRC on July 1 of this year, we will have a number of faculty, staff and students interacting with CRC partners in Australia for at least the next six years. 

In addition to our success with the Plant Biosecurity CRC, we also have had several high-level meetings with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) about collaborative research in animal infectious diseases and animal health. The Australian government is currently assembling a consortium of academic institutions and industrial partners to examine major animal health related issues affecting Australia, and Kansas State is one of the partners being considered for this new endeavor.

During our visits to Australia, members of the K-State senior administration have met with a variety of Australian universities. In the past 18 months, we have had formal visits with The University of Sydney, The University of Queensland, Queensland Institute of Technology, The University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, the University of New South Wales, and the University of Canberra. As a result of these visits, we now have formalized exchange agreements with The University of Sydney (World Rank #39), The University of Queensland (World Rank #46) and The University of Western Australia (World Rank #79). In these agreements, students from Kansas State University can pay in-state Kansas tuition and attend one of these universities for a semester. For the spring 2013 semester, we will have three K-State students studying at The University of Queensland and one student studying at The University of Western Australia. The partnerships are already paying dividends!

Our strong interest in Australia and commitment to research collaborations with leading Australian Universities has led to some potential significant opportunities with the Australian-American Fulbright Commission. We are currently in discussions about ways in which we can facilitate more Australian academics spending time working with research collaborators at Kansas State University across a wide range of disciplines beyond plant and animal infectious diseases. I will provide more information on this over the next several months as we finalize plans. 

So, what are the next steps in moving our Australia initiative forward? Given the growing number of K-State collaborations with academic partners and government research programs, it is clear we need to have a full-time physical presence in Australia. As such, we are currently in the process of opening a small two-person office in Sydney, Australia. Unlike in the U.S. where we would just put up a sign and be in business, we will spend the next several months working through the appropriate legal requirements and options for establishing "Kansas State University – Australia" as a legal entity which can do business in Australia. We will hire a full-time director of this office later in the spring and hope to have our Australia operation up and running no later than July 1.

So, what will this office do? The purpose of our K-State Australia office will be to facilitate and enhance relationships between Kansas State University faculty, staff and students and Australian universities, government agencies and industry. This office will serve as a liaison with our study abroad students, our faculty participating in research in the Plant Biosecurity CRC and future Fulbright scholars studying at one of the three Kansas State campuses (Manhattan, Olathe and Salina). It will also explore opportunities for collaborative research and faculty exchanges in other academic disciplines. Finally, this office will assist in developing relationships with our Australian alumni and friends – including Southeast Asia and other parts of this region of the world.

This is an exciting step for Kansas State University as we move forward with opportunities abroad for the entire university community. As always, let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

G'Day Mates and happy holidays!

Kirk Schulz


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