UD engineers visit universities in Colombia
A UD College of Engineering delegation led by Dean Michael Chajes, sixth from left, met with representatives of four universities in Colombia, including the Military University Nueva Granada, pictured. Below, the delegation meets officials at the National University of Colombia.
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1:08 p.m., May 26, 2009----A team of faculty members from the University of Delaware College of Engineering recently spent several days in Bogota, Colombia, where they met with presidents, deans, and department heads to forge new collaborations with their institutions.

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The UD delegation included Michael Chajes, dean of the UD College of Engineering; Harry Shenton, chairperson of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Anette Karlsson, acting chairperson of the Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Sylvain Cloutier, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The program in Bogota was organized and directed by Hernan Navarro, a research associate professor in the UD College of Education and Public Policy.

The group visited four universities: the National University of Colombia, Javeriana University, District of Bogota University Francisco Jose de Caldas, and the Military University Nueva Granada.

“This is a very exciting new arena of interaction for us,” Chajes said. “Our engineering faculty have established interactions with a number of universities in Asia and Europe, but South America is a relatively untapped region for research and education collaborations. We're exploring a variety of mechanisms, including dual degree programs and joint research.”

In addition, junior faculty from schools in Colombia will be encouraged to enroll in doctoral degree programs at UD. “This will help them move toward their goal of having all of their faculty hold Ph.D.s,” Chajes said, “while providing us with some very talented grad students and increasing diversity at UD.”

Prospective students from the Colombian institutions will be offered the opportunity to do summer research at UD to help establish a good fit between the UD mentors and the Colombian visitors.

Shenton viewed the trip as “a great opportunity to learn more about the top technical universities in Colombia, to interact with their faculty and students, and to understand the unique manner in which they are working to develop the research base at their universities.”

“Colombia is facing many of the same challenges we in the U.S. are facing -- deteriorating infrastructure, issues with the environment, and so on,” he said, “and they're looking to strengthen their knowledge base in science and engineering to address these issues.”

Karlsson was most impressed with how Colombia is providing high-quality education for people from all socioeconomic groups, including children from families at the lowest income level. Depending on their need, students may pay as little as $20 per semester in tuition.

“All of their colleges have -- even by U.S. standards -- very good laboratories for undergraduate students to learn the fundamentals of science and engineering,” Karlsson said. “I have no doubt that the students who come here for graduate school will be very successful, and I'm looking forward to seeing them in our department, in our college, and on our campus.”

“The ten Colombian universities that have signed cultural and academic exchange agreements with Delaware are highly motivated by the positive attitude of UD administrative officials, deans and faculty,” Navarro said. “The implementation of these agreements enjoys the full support of the Colombian government.”

Article by Diane Kukich

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