Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Return to campus

I spent last week in Michigan, USA with my boss. We had two practical objectives :1. to conclude all negotiations on aspects of the international agreement with a college and 2. to determine, agree on and implement the multitude of practical considerations needed to implement the new sustainability programmes for launch on 27 August 2012. 
The programme offers two options to College students : an International Diploma (post-graduate Certificate) that can follow an Albion undergraduate degree ; or an opportunity to Major in Sustainability Studies in Albion College’s undergraduate degree.
Putting an international academic agreement together can be complex: how and how often the two organisations would meet, what types of communication channels and presentation materials would be needed, consideration of Award Ceremonies, online teaching resources to be developed, distance accompaniment for Albion students, what collaborative platforms would be used, what sort of practical facilities might be required such as a base camp for French personnel visiting the college, assessment methods and timing, which staff and what sort of human resources would be needed to be supplied by each organisation.

Teaching contributions by project academics into the College BA programme kick off August 2012 so we've got to pull this together rather smartly. In the autumn of 2013 the first group of  College Sustainability Studies students in their third year of study will arrive in France to spend one semester at a science faculty in  France. This will be an opportunity for them to improve their French language capabilities and develop appreciation of French culture while studying abroad. Courses taken will be in English.

One evening the provost  invited us to her home. I found it fascinating. She's got a thing for Napoleon and has so many wonderful collectables from her trips to France. She and her husband have also collected some very special antiques, such as a harpsichord, a harmonium shaped like an organ, a piano, rocking chairs from the 19th and early 20th centuries, books, plates.

This part of the mid-West was a thriving place based on the automobile. Now there are many houses in Albion which are derelict and will probably never be lived in again but you can also find some beautiful old homes lovingly restored, like Susan's.

Her home is well preserved and dates from 1885. She's is great fun and I hope she and I can explore Paris together the next time she visits France. In the meantime, she kindly gave me a personally signed copy of a book on Napoleon she wrote. She is something of a Napoleon specialist writer from the female perspective ie not all about battles.
I enjoyed seeing the key staff from the College again, staying at Bellemont Manor on their beautiful campus, working shoulder to shoulder with them. It's great to have a personal relationship with people when you are needing to work on something so unique from such a distance. Yes, this programme is unique.

I also enjoyed visiting the campus of Grand Valley State University which is located just outside Grand Rapids. It's very impressive and so clean. I didn't see a disgusting mess of cigarette butts absolutely piled everywhere such as you see on Paris campuses. I didn't see a one.
I didn't see a mess in the city of Grand Rapids either. I asked the Mayor Heartwell how this state was maintained. I asked the same of GVSU. They put it down to attitude and pride in their environment and attentive staff. Top marks for that, I say.

We sat together at Mayor Heartwell's home and caught up on what each party was doing in terms of promoting sustainability. The deputy city manager and the guy responsible for the energy policy of Grand Rapids were present. I found it really interesting to listen to as it's been a while since I was actively involved in a city's sustainability policies. it was great to be back in that milieu for a while and see how advanced other places in the world are. New Zealand is slipping behind.

We met also key GVSU staff involved in issues of sustainability. This uni has a strong commitment to that and is part of the Grand Rapids Regional Centre of Excellence (a network of regions around the world committed to encouraging sustainability and the education of that- overseen by the United Nations University). We are not sure at this stage what, if any, partnership might be developed but the folks at GVSQ are certainly enthusiastic and extremely hospitable.


Post a Comment

I welcome your comments, contributions and feedback.