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At the University of Life Sciences in Aas, rector Knut Hove, left, and University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks shook hands after signing an agreement supporting continued work in biosciences.
U delegation to Norway advanced research in key areas
Group also explored technology and medicine
Brief, June 14, 2006
The University of Minnesota continues to strengthen ties with Norway, building on a strong historical connection with the people of Minnesota.
A delegation led by University President Robert Bruininks traveled to Norway between May 25 and June 2, visiting partner universities in Oslo, Bergen, and Aas as well as government officials, some of whom are University alumni. The U.S. ambassador to Norway, University Law School alumnus Benson Whitney, joined the delegation in Oslo.
The trip follows a $750,000 gift to the University presented last year by Norway's Crown Prince Haakon Magnus for an endowed faculty chair in the fields of renewable energy and microbial genetics. The chair holder will oversee six or more transatlantic research teams, which are made up of graduate students from Norway and the United States already at work--three focusing on biofuels and three on food safety and bovine genomics.
Leading delegation members
Vice president and chief of staff
Vice president for research
Dean, College of Biological Sciences
Dean, Medical School
Associate dean, Institute of Technology
Regents Professor, chemical engineering and materials sciences
Assistant professor, Biotechnology Institute
Associate vice president for academic affairs and professor, political science
"These are fields where we have research strengths across our university and have the potential to be a world leader in environmental and renewable energy issues," says Bruininks. "It's rare that a national government votes to support higher education in another country, but that's the special nature of our relationship with Norway and its people."
The partnership effectively brings the U into European policy discussions about renewable energy, says College of Biological Sciences dean Robert Elde, who was part of the delegation. The University is invited to meetings in conjunction with a European Union conference in September.
"The whole world is facing global warming and renewable energy issues," Elde says. "This exchange gives us a valuable opportunity to share ideas with European nations."
Minnesota and Norway share similar forest environments and the potential for renewable energy based on farm and forest products. Norway has domestic sources of oil but, like Minnesota, recognizes the need to develop alternative fuels and effective conservation strategies.
Minnesota and Norway also have a strong a strong historic relationship. More than 850,000 people--20 percent of Minnesotans--claim Norwegian heritage.
Alumnus Egil Stokstad, '37, right, talked with Susan Hagstrum, left, at a reception for U alumni. Photo by R. Kvavik.
A reception for University of Minnesota alumni in Norway was a highlight of the trip. In the group of 86 people who attended was Egil Stokstad, School of Dentistry, '37, now 91.
Another alumnus, Jostein Mykletun, CLA '72, '79, is now deputy director general of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mykletun has been at the forefront of international relations with Norway and, in December 2005, forged a bilateral science and technology agreement between the United States and Norway. During the alumni event, Mykletun received the University's 2006 Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals.
Other highlights of the visit:
Medical School dean Deborah Powell, right, signed an agreement renewing and strengthening ties at the University of Oslo. Photo by Sharon Olson.
- At the University of Life Sciences in Aas, the University of Oslo, and the Ministry of Education and Research in Oslo, Bruininks was invited to speak on the topic of how a research university can more effectively promote regional economic development. Medical School dean Deborah Powell, College of Biological Sciences dean Robert Elde, and vice president for research Tim Mulcahy provided detailed examples of how the University is working with communities and the private sector to improve technology transfer and meet the health-care needs of Minnesota. Norway and Minnesota both have vast rural areas where health-care delivery is a critical need.
- Also in Oslo, Bruininks drew on the past two years of intense organizational change at the University of Minnesota to give a presentation at the University of Oslo on "Advancing Excellence in Large Research Universities." Existing agreements--university-wide as well as with the faculties of medicine and technology--were renewed.
At the University of Bergen (UiB), professor Olav Elholm, right, talked with Institute of Technology associate dean Peter Hudleston, left, and President Bruininks. Photo courtesy of UiB.
- The delegation met with the U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation staff, which hosted a dinner that evening in honor of President Bruininks, a member of the U.S. Fulbright Scholarship Board. The group also met with U students in Norway: individuals studying chemical engineering and mass communications and a group in the global seminar, "Norway's Economy: From Cod to Crude," led by UMD associate professor of accounting Alan Roline.
- At the University of Bergen, delegation leaders spoke to faculty members and administrators on technology transfer and information technology in higher education. Members also met with colleagues in chemistry, earth science, microbiology, psychology, medicine, and student exchange and research administration. A cooperative agreement was signed.
Powell looks forward to the Medical School's reciprocal visits of faculty members and students with the University of Bergen and researchers with the University Oslo. Research collaboration will evolve particularly in neuroscience, she says, and exchanges will strengthen existing programs.
UiB vice president for international relations Kjersti Flottum, left, and President Bruininks signed a cooperative agreement. Photo courtesy of UiB.
Bruininks says he was glad to share some of the innovations that the University of Minnesota is putting into place to improve the position and responsibility of the U and its impact on the public and on humankind's quality of life.
"It was one of the best such trips I've taken in two decades," Bruininks told the Board of Regents June 9. "It's a very important responsibility of the University to connect with leading universities in the world. We have enormous opportunities for collaboration with Norway. The work will be exciting."
This was Bruininks' third international trip--and first to Norway--as president. He formerly served as dean of the College of Education and Human Development and a member of the faculty.
Gayla Marty contributed to this article.