Think globally, act globally

Fort Collins and Shanghai aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence. But that was the case in June 2011 when Colorado State University and East China Normal University announced their Joint Institute for New Energy and the Environment.

That partnership, focused on developing new energy solutions and addressing the impact of energy on air quality, land use, climate and water resources, is just one among hundreds of such collaborative agreements that now link Colorado researchers with their peers around the globe.

Colorado’s research community is expanding its global reach every year, due to the ever-increasing connectivity of 21st Century society and a vibrant culture of innovation and exploration at its leading research institutions.

According to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors report, there were 115,113 international scholars from 193 countries conducting research on U.S. campuses in 2010-11.

Of those, 1,805 were working in Colorado — up 15.3 percent from the previous year. And 574 of those in Colorado — or 32 percent — were at CU Denver and the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Not incidental is the fact that international student enrollments in Colorado last year contributed $315.5 million to the Colorado economy, according to the Open Doors report.

CSU now lists nearly 100 international pacts — including student exchanges and faculty swaps, as well as larger-scale research projects — on its web site, involving countries on every continent but Antarctica.

Rick Miranda, Provost and Executive Vice President at CSU, contends that university is now one of the premier research universities in the United States.

“I wouldn’t doubt that our international reputation in civil engineering and agriculture and veterinary medicine and areas like ecology and life sciences are driving the relationships forward,” said Miranda, “although I think we have international activity all over campus, by now.”

Agreements such as the CSU-ECNU pact, while proliferating, are hardly new. The Colorado School of Mines, for example, in 2001 entered an agreement to assist the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) with the formation of the Petroleum Institute, a degree-granting university focused on engineering and applied science as it relates to the United Arab Emirates oil and gas industry.

And Stein Sture, Vice Chancellor for Research at CU-Boulder, said international partnerships have been a strong part of the institutional fabric for the 30 years he has been on the faculty there.

“In the College of Engineering and Applied Science, with 200 faculty members, it’s fair to say just about every faculty member has two to three collaborations internationally,” said Sture.

High-profile collaborations on the Boulder campus include physics department faculty and staff who are part of the $3.8 billion Large Hadron Collider project in Switzerland. The menu of CU-Boulder partnerships also includes its participation — along with universities in Canada and Germany — in a $110 million astronomy project in the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Many of these international scholars are doing what is called STEM-field research, in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to David Clubb, senior director in the office of International Affairs at CU Denver.

“Global competence for students and teachers and researchers used to be a catchy add-on thing for your resume, a feather in your cap, but now it’s the baseline,” said Clubb.

“You have to know what’s going on in China and India, because you’re going to be in labs where you’re going to be collaborating with people from around the world; it is not an extra, anymore. It’s a given.”

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