UVM partners with Dutch university

UVM has recently formalized a long-standing informal research-based partnership with Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The informal relationship had existed between the two institutions for several years based upon the faculty initiative by Dr. Yvonne Janssen-Heininger of the College of Medicine in the Department Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, according to Vice President of Research and Graduate Studies Frances Carr.Dr. Janssen-Heininger received her Ph.D. from Maastricht University and in 1993 finished her postdoctoral fellowship at UVM, where she now operates a research lab, according to the College of Medicine website. Dr. Janssen-Heininger has had graduate students from Maastricht coming to UVM for a number of years to work in her lab as a part of her research team, said Vice President Carr. This faculty-led initiative has evolved and the partnership has strengthened over the years to the point of Maastricht University recently wanting to formalize the relationship, said Carr.”The institution in Maastricht was interested in seeing if there was the possibility of expanding the partnership so it would involve more faculty, and perhaps the entire university as we explore different areas of commonality.”The interest in expanding was really based on the common research areas and the common opportunities for training,” said Carr. These areas of research are focused around Dr. Janssen-Heininger’s work on the impacts of environmental factors on lungs, namely lung cancer, and her work in the Vermont Lung Center includes research on epithelial cells in the body’s airways and their response to allergens and pollutants, according to the College of Medicine website.Of the formalized partnership Carr notes that a framework for dual-degrees for students has been established.Furthermore, she “was particularly interested in supporting [the collaborators’] efforts partly because this would help advance the fundamental re?search and also provide some new opportunity to explore translational research.””It’s a research and an educational opportunity…and it always strengthens our research enterprise to have international collaborations.”This new agreement fits into a larger context as UVM becomes more internationally engaged. According to Carr, UVM has many other affiliations around the world for research-based initiatives, notably a partnership with the University of Tasmania, two universities in China based upon UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel’s initiative, and fellowships with schools in Vietnam and at the University of Natal in South Africa, said Carr.International affiliations are opportunities for learning and many of the partnerships UVM has can be termed “umbrella agreements”, according to Carr. This means that UVM and a partnering institution “agree in principle to a set of activities that we would like to see flourish: … undergraduate student exchange … graduate programs co-developed … enhanced research collaborations. Those are the three principles under which these broad umbrella agreements get signed.”There were a lot of people from UVM involved in the decision-making process for the Maastricht agreement to analyze resources, understand the implications, and decide whether a formalized partnership makes sense, said Carr. Ultimately, Carr recognized that “it’s an exciting opportunity for faculty, staff, and students. We are looking out globally. In the long term it will really impact the educational opportunities for undergraduate students.””We have a wide variety [of institutional affiliations]. When these make strategic sense for UVM and are recognized as providing an opportunity that will help faculty and students in the long run, then we would certainly pursue these opportunities, as UVM becomes a more internationally engaged,” said Carr.