Sweden Trip Productive
A small Northern delegation made a quick trip to Sweden this month to meet with administrators at Vaxjo University. They discussed potential exchanges of students, faculty, curriculum content and technical expertise. According to President Les Wong, it was a productive visit.
“We are in the process of exchanging formal documents,” he said. “The city of Vaxjo looks a lot like the Upper Peninsula and much of the curriculum is taught in English, so the comfort level would be sky high for our students and faculty.”
Other NMU participants were Phyllis Wong, Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration) and Cynthia Prosen (Graduate Studies, Research and Continuing Education). The team is shown with two representatives of Vaxjo University and NMU alumnus Joe Evans (far right).
Northern's connection with the institution was facilitated by Evans, a senior vice president for the Sweden-based Saab Inc. Defense Unit—formerly Ericsson Telecom.
“He invited us to Washington D.C. about a year ago because the Swedes were hosting a small trade fair in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” said Wong. “A couple universities had booths and speakers there. So did corporations like Ikea, Husqvarna, Volvo and Saab.”
At a dinner in conjunction with the fair, Wong received a standing invite from two representatives from Vaxjo to visit their university. “We put it off a couple of times, but found a four-day window of opportunity to finally take them up on it. Saab is interested in promoting intellectual exchanges and research. Having an alumus at the corporation brings a little more oomph to our involvement. We might explore how NMU and Vaxjo might meet with the research and development people at Saab to see what training needs they have.”
Wong said Swedish faculty are interested in the pedagogy of teaching with technology, but their campus infrastructure trails behind NMU. Faculty are largely self-taught on the use WebCT because there’s not an emphasis on training and support. He said broadband is available extensively, but at slower speeds. However, Vaxjo has developed an online degree program in Scandinavian languages that might be of interest to NMU.
While Swedes recognize the value of promoting study-abroad opportunities for its college students, the challenge is providing an incentive to follow through. Wong said one of the byproducts of the hefty individual tax rate of 60 percent, in addition to government-sponsored health care and government-owned and maintained buildings, is that students do not have to pay tuition or fees to attend college. It’s a benefit that is extended to international students as well.
“Our students could take a semester or year over there for basically no cost except room and board. If they take courses approved for their major, they would just pay Northern’s tuition rate. The question is how we might create a similar advantage for Swedish students to make it appealing for them to study here. We’re exploring that right now.”
Wong said NMU might invest in a booth at a Swedish-American Entrepreneurial Days trade event Aug. 20-23 in south Sweden. Northern has also been invited to set up an informational table at a Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce event in Chicago in April.