October 8th to the 13th, I traveled to Ireland and England with my dean, Chuck Bomar, to pay visits to the Dublin Institute of Technology and Coventry University. The purpose of these visits was to pursue the establishment of new partnerships between UW-Stout and these two intuitions. Chuck has met representatives from each this past summer at the Polytechnic Summit which Stout co-hosted with Purdue and the Hochschule Darmstadt-University of Applied Science.

Notes on the Dublin Institute of Technology

The DIT campus is growing rapidly and is currently in the process of centralizing their various campus units to a large, unified campus space within the center of Dublin. Construction to support this unified campus is ongoing in several locations.

They have many strong programs, and are very interested in Mechanical Engineering exchanges. Exchanges for Mechanical might include a semester on campus with an optional industry placement. Other programs of interest were Computer Science, Gaming design, Supply Chain, Construction and perhaps Plastics Engineering. They have strong local partnership with IBM, and would like to explore the possibility of a partnership between Stout, DIT, and IBM.

Next steps include the creation of exchange agreements between the two universities so that we can ensure proper transfer of curriculum for students who would choose to do a study abroad. Also, need to explore issues around the industry placement idea to identify any possible road blocks.

Notes on Coventry

We first toured the main campus of Coventry University. Similar to DIT, Coventry is experiencing rapid growth as is evident by the construction occurring around campus. We met with several representatives from the various colleges and programs. All were interested in exchange opportunities, again with connections between several program areas. We quickly identified opportunities in shared capstone experiences and student exchanges. Coventry is actively involved in what they call Online International Learning (OIL) which aims to provide international experiences without needing to leave the home institution. This is likely an easy place to start the relationship. Coventry already has two years of experience conducting similar exchanges with Purdue and other partners.

In addition to engineering, we identified collaborative opportunities in real estate/property management, industrial design, apparel, construction, and supply chain management.

The following day we toured Coventry’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME). The institute houses the Manufacturing Engineering program and is a relatively unique in that the students are embedded (physically) within a working manufacturing facility operated by Unipart. This relationship provides the opportunity for integration of real time problem solving with curriculum and close collaborations between the Unipart engineers and the students/faculty. The faculty who work in this environment reflected on the richness of the hands-on experience, while still being connected to the main campus. The AME facility is about 10 minutes away from the main campus and students typically spend three days per week at the AME facility doing integrated learning on real-time scaled manufacturing research problems identified in part by Unipart and the faculty, and two days per week taking classes on the main campus. We hope to identify ways to work together both on campus and AME.

To Summarize

In summary, both DIT and Coventry provide a lot of opportunity for collaboration. What will make the collaboration most successful will be doing student exchanges where students from particular programs are able to swap, and students are able to pay their home campus fees. While not required for the exchange to work, finding companies with facilities in both areas will make this a really special opportunity.

Additionally, at both institutions we discussed plans for creating a “Polytechnic Consortium” which would act as a joint agreement between partner institutions to develop a streamlined process for curriculum agreements and student exchanges. This consortium would act as a clearinghouse for curriculum transfer agreements, industry placement opportunities, and other opportunities for students from any one partner institution to spend a semester at another partner institution. We have planned to explore this opportunity at each of our home institutions and reconvene at the next Polytechnic Summit to begin making arrangements.