Universities Must Collaborate, Not Protect Turf, to be Global Players

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Limited resources and abundant global needs mean campuses must set priorities for research and build partnerships both at home and abroad, says UC Riverside Chancellor’s Symposium speaker Jeffrey Riedinger

By Kris Lovekin on May 19, 2014

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Jeffrey Riedinger speaks at UC Riverside May 16 about the importance of solving problems globally.  Jeanette Marantos

Jeffrey Riedinger speaks at UC Riverside May 16 about the importance of solving problems globally.

Jeanette Marantos

By Jeanette Marantos

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — UC Riverside has set its sights on increasing its global connections. During a Chancellor’s Symposia event on Friday, May 16, Jeffrey Riedinger, vice provost of global affairs at the University of Washington, advised students, staff and faculty to “crowd in” across departments around large global issues.

Instead of the question, “What is your major? He advised students to connect to larger issues, whether economic growth, climate change or feeding the world. In a packed room during Chancellor Kim Wilcox’s second symposium on ‘The Future of the American Research University,’ Riedinger challenged faculty to bundle individual global projects into larger issues that are organized across department lines, and which are in concert with community resources.

To become a global university, Riedinger said, “UCR will challenge its deans, chairs and directors to align opportunities for their students to engage in study, research, internships and experiential learning abroad around the strategic research partnerships and community platforms of their colleges, departments and schools.”

If curriculum requirements are too rigid to permit students to study elsewhere, those requirements need to change, he said.

Global universities of the 21st century are also encouraging their faculty to “crowd in” around particular areas of research, Riedinger said, to build partnerships that span the campus as well as the community, country and globe.

“Our aim is to enhance well being by creating a world with more resilient communities,” and  “bend the trends” that are challenging our world, such as population growth and urbanization, increasing demands for food and energy, water scarcity, climate change, disease and education for a knowledge economy.

From left, Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Studies David Herzberger, Professor of Economics Marcelle Chauvet, University of Washington Vice Provost of Global Affairs Jeffrey Reidinger and UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox  Jeanette Marantos

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox is in the foreground. In back, from left, Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Studies David Herzberger, Professor of Economics Marcelle Chauvet, and University of Washington Vice Provost of Global Affairs Jeffrey Riedinger.

Jeanette Marantos

 

“To bend the trends, we need partners,” he said. “We have to build a network of networks, because we can’t do it alone. And as institutions we have to make strategic choices, because we can’t do it all.”

One key is building research partnerships by bringing together faculty and students from different departments who are researching similar problems, and finding ways they can share. Faculty should also look at ways to share partnerships with companies and universities here and abroad, and encourage opportunities not just for their students to study and research abroad but for foreign students to come to UCR to work on research projects here

Riedinger said during his time at Michigan State University, where he and Wilcox worked together and became friends, he led a university-wide program to help faculty and staff set priorities for international research and study. Hundreds of people came together on the floor of the university basketball court to discover the areas where Michigan State had its deepest involvements and strongest financial support, he said, and to set research priorities for university’s funding.

“The worst thing an administrator can do is tell faculty where to go and what they should do for their research,” Riedinger said. “but when you are investing scarce institutional resources for research, allocating resources in support of those partnerships is the most advantageous to the campus, community and world we serve.

“Faculty will always be free to travel and conduct research wherever they deem appropriate, with exceptions for health and safety. However, UCR cannot be all things to everyone. UCR will need to invest its scarce financial and human resources in support of research, education and community engagement on priority themes, in key countries, with strategic partner organizations.”

Thanks to Chancellor Wilcox’s goals to hire 300 tenure-track faculty in the next five years, UCR will have a unique opportunity to identify key research themes for the institution and “crowd in” faculty around those priorities, he said.  

After his talk, Riedinger joined a panel with Wilcox and faculty members Marcelle Chauvet, professor of  Economics and David Herzberger, distinguished professor of Hispanic Studies, who noted he is chairing the search for UCR’s newly created position of vice provost for international affairs.

“To me, UCR is already wonderfully international, but in an island sort of way, Herzberger said. “Look at our website. …We have at least 10 separate pages that begin with the word ‘international,’ so I think a lot of our colleagues are doing terrific work in international types of activities but we don’t feel like an international campus because we haven’t managed to integrate all of these activities. We’re hopeful the new provost will take this on immediately and effectively.”

Chauvet asked Riedinger to explain the most productive university relationships, and how they began. He said there isn’t one simple formula, but they can begin in a variety of ways. For instance, he’s offered to pay for a dinner to get a faculty member from his university talking to a colleague from a university where they would like to build a relationship. Or he’s sent faculty members to international conferences so they can rub shoulders with potential partners from other countries. And students who study abroad can be very helpful in pointing out remarkable people who would be great partners, he said.

The trick is getting relationships to go from an individual level to institutional level, he said. “Understandably, these individuals (who have built relationships) have some trepidation when somebody in my role walks in saying, ‘I’m here to help. I’m going to crowd the rest of the university into a relationship you painstakingly built, and trust me, we won’t be culturally insensitive or do anything else that will ruin your life.’”

As for who the partners should be, he said, “research universities should partner with research universities, but having said that, there are things we do incredibly well and things we don’t do well at all, which is why we need the partnerships with government agencies and corporations and the like.”

Riedinger said about 50 percent of his time is spent fundraising, but it’s not always just asking for money. At lot of the time, he said, “I am asking remarkable foundations and corporations, government agencies and partnering universities, ‘If that’s what you’re passionate about and where you want to do, would you take a meeting with these remarkable faculty and remarkable students we have on our campus?’ I get to be a shameless salesman because I had almost nothing to do about (creating) these remarkable faculty and students.”

Wilcox broke in and said Riedinger was being modest:  at Michigan Wilcox said, “Jeff grew the funding for international programs from about $20 million to $150 million.  “So there’s a lot of money in international work, and a lot of that money was for graduate students across the whole university, and most of it came from foundations. So,” the chancellor said, grinning, “that’s just another way to encourage people to participate.”

Jeffrey Reidinger, second from left, talks with attendees at a reception  after his talk. At left is Sharon Walker, a professor from the Bourns College of Engineering.  Jeanette Marantos

Jeffrey Riedinger, second from left, talks with attendees at a reception after his talk. At left is Sharon Walker, a professor from the Bourns College of Engineering.
Jeanette Marantos

One more speaker is scheduled to help UC Riverside leadership explore, along with the faculty, how UCR will grow and develop over the next five years. Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, an influential agency in the higher education world, will speak at 4 p.m. May 30, in the Genomics Auditorium. His topic is “The Public University of the 21st Century.” UCR faculty members leading the response are Jodie Holt, professor of botany in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Sharon Walker, Bourns College of Engineering.

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