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Teach locally, act globally

Award-winning U faculty illustrate the importance of putting the University's mission into action on the world stage

By Jim Thorp

The University of Minnesota has long taken pride in its mission of research, education and outreach, using its expertise and resources to benefit citizens of the state- and world-wide. Internationalization is nothing new to the U, but strategic positioning has given renewed energy to system-wide efforts to partner with international institutions and serve the global good.

Award for Global Engagement

The all-University Award for Global Engagement is given to faculty and staff members, active or retired, in recognition of outstanding contributions to global education and international programs in their field, discipline, or the University.

In 2006, the University selected three winners: Zbigniew Bochniarz, Harry Lando and Meredith McQuaid. The award is sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for System Academic Administration and administered by the Office of International Programs.

In 2005, the University established the Award for Global Engagement in recognition of outstanding faculty members who put the University's service mission into action abroad. And as the 2006 award recipients show, when the U goes global, everyone wins.

Revolutionary research Polish-born professor and former senior fellow of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Zbigniew Bochniarz turned challenges in his homeland into an exemplary career both here and abroad, helping former Soviet-bloc nations reform their economies. Bochniarz left Poland in late 1985 as a self-described "Solidarity trouble-maker" who had quickly fallen out of favor with the Communist leadership. He followed his wife to the U, where she had come in September 1985 as a Fulbright scholar.

"I wanted to help my country, the whole of Central and Eastern Europe, and build a bridge between the U.S. and that region," recalls Bochniarz. "It took me some time to establish my position, but by the fall of 1989, I was back in Poland with the best U.S. scholars and environmental experts to teach a country newly liberated by Solidarity how to use the market in favor of environmental protection and sustainable development."

For 12 years, Bochniarz directed the Humphrey Institute's Center for Nations in Transition, an umbrella organization for several multi-year research and training projects dealing with economic, ecological and institutional changes in Central and Eastern Europe. He sees several reasons for the University of Minnesota to help address global issues in the field and classroom.

"The U.S. economy, despite the fact that it's still the larges world economy, depends more and more on other economies," he says. "In recent years the American economy had allocated about 50 percent of its trade to emerging economies, mostly China, India, and Central and Eastern Europe. To retain leadership in the world and secure its competitive position requires continuing investment in generating new knowledge about these developing economies and preparing business leader to understand them."

In addition, he says, the U.S. is the world's largest polluter, particularly in terms of greenhouse gases, and must take responsibility not only for the pollution itself, but also for helping to educate the next generation of business and governmental leaders worldwide to be environmentally responsible. Firsthand experience with these issues in Central and Eastern Europe gives Bochniarz, his colleagues and his students perspectives they can't get anywhere else in the world.

"During the last 20 years, I've brought over 80 faculty members to the region. Many of them have published articles or books, or have developed case studies on Central and Eastern Europe and delivered them to the University and its students," says Bochniarz. "There are hundreds of publications as a result of these exchanges. In my case, over 90 percent of my publications are related to that region, and most of them are used by my students as required or recommended readings, giving them unique opportunities to study in depth the problems of systemic transformation in that region. About 10 of my students have taken advantage of CEE internships at our collaborative universities or think tanks. Several of them are also included as co-authors of my publications.

"Fast-growing globalization processes require academia to address them through research, teaching and outreach," he says. "Who will explain these processes to the society?"

Life-saving outreach Epidemiology professor Harry Lando of the University's School of Public Health is one of the world's preeminent researchers in the area of tobacco prevention and control. He has published more smoking intervention trials than anyone else in the world and now views tobacco prevention and control as a fundamental human rights issue.

International education

Under the leadership of U of M Law School associate dean Meredith McQuaid, both international and U.S. students have benefited from the expansion of international exchange programs-from new programs in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Uruguay to existing programs in Sweden and France. She may be best known for the new Summer Program for American Students in Beijing and has been involved at all stages of the development, management and oversight of the law school's efforts in China.

McQuaid was recently named interim associate vice president and dean for international programs, a role in which she will continue to work hard to advance the U's global imperative.

"I became involved in smoking cessation at the age of 23 when I was in the second year of my doctoral study," Lando says. "I began thinking globally in the past six to seven years. ... I was struck by survey data in China that indicated that 69 percent of smokers believed that smoking was doing them little or no harm. In our own National Institutes of Health-funded research in India and Indonesia, we found that physicians believed that smoking up to 10 cigarettes per day was safe!

"I believe that people have the right to be adequately informed about deadly and addictive products. ... By framing tobacco reduction as a human rights issue, we engage an important human rights constituency that has not previously been part of tobacco reduction efforts."

An estimated 5 million people per year currently die of tobacco-related disease; according to Lando, this number is projected to double to 10 million within the next 20 to 25 years -- with 70 percent of the deaths occurring in developing countries.

"Against this backdrop, much more needs to be done," he says. "The recently adopted World Health Organization treaty -- the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control -- is an important step in the right direction."

Lando says that U.S. universities -- and the University of Minnesota in particular -- can make a major difference internationally by actively doing the research and promoting the policies needed to effectively combat tobacco. "U.S. tobacco companies have been at the forefront of those spreading the tobacco epidemic internationally, working against effective public health initiatives, and distorting the scientific evidence. The U.S. government was one of the largest obstacles to the adoption of the Framework Convention," Lando says. "We are proposing a Tobacco Control Research and Policy Center at the University of Minnesota that should cement our reputation as the number one university in the world on this important public health topic. ... The School of Public Health is looking at opportunities to facilitate international exchange programs for students and faculty. The Program in Tobacco and Human Rights will provide opportunities for our students to gain important knowledge in this area.

"Much of what we need to do is already known -- it's a matter of having the political will and the resources to apply our knowledge," Lando says.

FURTHER READING University faculty members get recognized for global contributions
(From Minnesota Daily Web site) Bochniarz receives honorary doctorate
(From Humphrey Institute News,PDF 356 KB) Around the world in ten minutes: Global health's greatest challenges
(From Advances PDF 708 KB)