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K-State Today

April 2, 2014

Letter from President Schulz: K-State/Australia initiatives

Submitted by Kirk Schulz

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to the home stretch of the semester! I am reminded every year that the most frantic time of the school year is between spring break and spring commencement. So, good luck to everyone as we finish up another academic year. 

I had the opportunity in March to once again visit Australia as part of our institutional efforts to enhance K-State/Australia connections. During visits to the "land down under," I work to build connections with Australian universities that desire to partner with K-State, including meetings with various Australian government officials, members of the U.S. Embassy Staff and the Australian-American Fulbright Commission. To track the growing number of Australian partnerships with K-State, we maintain a webpage that describes many of our Australia initiatives. We also use Facebook and Twitter to update current events.

The overall goal in working with our Australian counterparts is to develop in-depth relationships with world-class universities that are eager to partner with Kansas State University. In short, we want to facilitate relationships that enable students to have great study-abroad experiences, that provide novel opportunities for our faculty and staff to form high-level research and teaching collaborations with Australian partners, and that enhance our institutional reputation through the formation of strategic university partnerships.

Fulbright Program

Professor John Leslie in Plant Pathology won a Fulbright Award to study at the University of Sydney in 2002, and since that time has maintained a strong relationship with his colleagues there and the Australian-American Fulbright Commission. During the last several years, we began exploring ways we could have a greater exchange of top Australian academics with Kansas State University through the Fulbright program. Out of these discussions, K-State became the first U.S. university to sponsor an Australian Fulbright Distinguished Chair and a Senior Scholar, which places two top Australian University faculty members at K-State for a semester each year. The Distinguished Chair is focused broadly around the life sciences, while the Senior Scholar can be from any field.

Interested Australian applicants apply to the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, which has an equal number of U.S. and Australian representatives. After completing applications and a series of interviews, the commission provides us with the names of qualified applicants from which we can select individuals where we have a strong fit. For this upcoming academic year, John Pluske (Murdoch University) was chosen as the first K-State Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Zed Rengel (University of Western Australia) was selected as the first K-State Fulbright Senior Scholar. Professors Pluske and Rengel will both be on the Manhattan campus during the fall 2014 semester.

There are 14 additional Australian faculty and professionals who have won Fulbright Awards to study at other U.S. research universities during the 2014-15 academic year. To further develop and enhance Kansas State University and Australian research relationships, we have invited all of these Australian Fulbright Scholars to visit K-State while they are in the U.S. to visit with the academic department most appropriate for their expertise. For example, one of the Fulbright Scholars, Lachlan Philpott, is a playwright who will work with faculty and students in the K-State School of Music, Theatre, and Dance to perform one of his plays as a part of the regular season in February 2015. Since these scholars are from a wide range of disciplines, I expect these visits to have a campuswide impact and to open up new opportunities in Australia for K-State faculty, staff and students.

CRC for Plant Biosecurity

One of the most successful of our Australian initiatives has been K-State's inclusion as a key international academic partner in the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre. This effort provides research funding for K-State faculty and staff working in the plant biosecurity area, and involves faculty in three different departments; Entomology, Grain Science and Plant Pathology. The CRC also provides several doctoral-level fellowships for students working on CRC-oriented projects, and in general provides significant research support that capitalizes on strengths in the College of Agriculture. We currently are exploring K-State's involvement in additional CRCs in other research areas in which we have strong research expertise and unique capabilities that would involve additional colleges and academic departments.

Student Exchanges

We have put in place active student exchange programs with the University of Sydney, the University of Queensland and the University of Western Australia. All three of these universities are members of the "Group of 8," the top tier of Australian research universities. In these exchange programs, our students pay resident tuition in Kansas and, if accepted, study at one of these three universities. Likewise, all three of these Australian universities send a roughly equal number of students to K-State to study. Since establishing these exchange programs in 2012, the number of students participating in these programs has increased dramatically, such that Australia is now the top country for exchange students at K-State. 

Oz to Oz

All this sounds great, but ultimately how does this help the entire university? As I mentioned earlier in the letter, one of the goals of our Australia initiative is to facilitate research and scholarly relationships with our Australian counterparts. With this in mind, we recently launched the Oz to Oz initiative (note: Oz is a slang nickname for Australia) that will pay travel costs for faculty members to develop relationships with Australian counterparts. The application process is all online and is designed to be easy to complete with a deadline of April 25 for requests through June 30, 2015. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an email.

Our current relationships with Australian universities continue to grow and to open up new opportunities for research partnerships. I hope many members of the K-State community will be able to interact with the Australian Fulbright scholars and exchange students when they visit our university. It is exciting to watch this Australia initiative thrive and grow!

G'day, Mates!


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