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2021 University Global Partnership Network Virtual Conference Review

Going virtual for the first time, the University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) conference brought together administrators, faculty, staff and students from across the globe over four days: March 22-25, 2021. Within the overarching theme of resilient universities, the agenda included plenary sessions with keynote speakers complemented by concurrent theme-based UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) workshops relating to industries for the future, health and wellbeing and sustainable planet. Additionally, resiliency sessions brought together staff and diverse expertise to address operational, administrative, educational, technology and HR issues and provided a forum for discussing lessons learned during the global pandemic. These included panel discussions over the first three days: innovations in remote learning and hybrid education, student mobility and mission continuity.

More than 750 people registered for the conference, which significantly increased the scope and engagement among faculty, staff and students. The virtual format enabled greater participation compared to previous in-person conferences across the four UGPN partners. While looking a bit different than past experience, participants were able to network and interact with one another, session panelists and speakers over the course of events during the synchronous sessions, via Slack channels and through informal coffee chats. A major impetus for the conference – and measure of success – is the extent to which faculty and staff can build connections that will lead to future multilateral collaboration and engagement whether in research or academic program development.

Participation by NC State Faculty and Staff

Participation by NC State faculty and staff to share their expertise as panelists and keynote speakers contributed to a successful conference that would not have been possible otherwise.

Day 1: Prof. Mary Watzin, Director of the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability initiative presented about the wide-ranging work at NC State relating to sea level rise and how we can address the multifaceted challenges of global climate change during the sustainable planet workshop. Dr. Donna Petherbridge, Associate Vice Provost, Academic Technology Innovation, DELTA contributed to the innovations in remote learning and hybrid education resiliency session.

Day 2: Dr. Karen Bullock, Department Head of Social Work presented her work on ways to address health care disparities in aging and minority communities during the Health and Wellbeing workshop. Julia Kisner Law, Associate Director in the Study Abroad Office contributed to the panel discussion on student mobility (Day 2) and opportunities for new models for engaging students.

Day 3: Prof. Yuan-Shin Lee, Director of the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Center (SMIC) gave a presentation during the Day 3 plenary about manufacturing innovation, highlighting the work of SMIC along with other centers at NC State.

It will be important to leverage the momentum of this conference to activate those collaborative opportunities and interest as expressed among conference participants. Going forward, the UGPN will expand our efforts to facilitate connections among faculty as well as professional staff on a more regular basis that would deepen engagement and collaboration across research, teaching, co-curricular, support services, operations and student mobility. The UGPN education collaborative pilot project is an example of Curricular Online Global Learning (COGL) where the network has the potential to become a global leader in this arena of collaborative teaching. Additionally, the UGPN is committed to regional expansion to bring in new membership in Asia and continental Europe.

The UGPN Research Collaboration Fund (RCF)

The UGPN Research Collaboration Fund (RCF) is a joint initiative among all four UGPN partners that supports high-quality research collaboration tackling key global issues. The RCF has been an integral part of the network since its inception in 2011. Providing starter funds of up to $10,000 per participating project partner, the fund supports bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral collaborative research interactions.

The 2021 UGPN RCF is now open and accepting proposals through June 21, 2021. For this cycle, the UGPN would particularly welcome proposals which:

  • contribute to research areas ‘Sustainable Planet’ or ‘Industries for the Future’ and/or;
  • are multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary across STEM/Social Sciences/ Humanities

Additionally, funding will support costs for virtual interaction as well as travel and subsistence associated with researchers spending time at partner institutions, organizing workshops (virtual or face to face), consumables directly related to the project, and costs for dissemination of results (publication, media, etc.).

About the UGPN

The University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) sets out to create a foundation for international collaboration enabling academics, researchers, staff and students to work together on issues of global importance. Currently, the UGPN includes four partner universities: North Carolina State University (USA), the Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil), the University of Surrey (UK) and the University of Wollongong (Australia). The network expands our collective reach and provides a unique platform for multilateral engagement. Fostering collaborative research between UGPN partner universities is an important priority for the network and is achieved by facilitating faculty and research connections at international meetings, seminars and workshops as well as providing seed funds to launch new research projects.