DUNMORE, Pa. — Firmly committed to its role as an internationally known institution, Penn State has cultivated relationships with numerous universities in far-flung corners of the globe. Among those who’ve experienced this global perspective firsthand is Penn State Scranton Professor of Information Sciences and Technology Alan Peslak.
Following his trip last summer to Kazakhstan, Peslak and a contingent of University representatives this past winter traveled to New Zealand to engage in a development workshop with faculty members from the University of Auckland.
The workshop was part of the Joint Collaboration Development Program, which is providing faculty teams from both universities with the opportunity to develop a long-term, self-supporting, sustainable collaborative teaching, research and service program supporting an institutional-level strategic relationship. The partnership also includes a competitive seed money request for proposals (RFP) jointly funded by both universities.
Upon returning from the workshop, Peslak and his Penn State contingent, led by Tiffany MacQuarrie, assistant teaching professor of English at Penn State Beaver, successfully submitted a proposal to expand Penn State Beaver’s Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) program to include Auckland. It was one of eight separate projects within the Joint Collaboration Development Program to receive funding from the University’s Office of Global Programs.
Through EDGE, faculty from both universities will be able to develop collaborative virtual learning projects for students. This coming fall, students in Peslak’s IST 421 – Advanced Enterprise Integration: Technologies and Applications course will develop software for students in Auckland’s Asian Identities course.
Last fall, Peslak’s IST 421 students collaborated on an IT project with students at S. Seifullin Kazakh AgroTech University in Kazakhstan, one of several other international schools where EDGE has been successfully implemented.
Peslak was invited to take part in the Auckland project by Alexandra Persiko, strategic partnerships manager for Global Programs.
“I applied and was accepted,” Peslak said. “I believe we had 12 to 15 people in total selected from the entire University.”
The multi-day workshop began with presentations given by members of the Penn State and Auckland delegations, as well as by members of the U.S. Embassy staff stationed in New Zealand.
From there, the group participated in-depth breakout sessions where they exchanged ideas in hopes of developing specific joint teaching and research proposals, Peslak said.
“We worked on these for the next few days and presented our proposals on our final day. An exciting discussion and plan resulted from it,” said Peslak, who is also working to develop a data usage and privacy research center with several Auckland faculty members.
An avid traveler, Peslak remained in Auckland for two additional days following the workshop. He spent that time touring and photographing some of the city’s most notable landmarks, including the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park.
“Auckland was an amazing city. It was my first time in New Zealand, and the country was both familiar in that English is the spoken language, but also surprisingly unique with its British colonial influence and strong indigenous peoples’ culture,” said Peslak, referring to the country’s Maori ethnic group, who make up about 20 percent of New Zealand’s population. “We were able to participate in a traditional Maori banquet with Maori cuisine as well as Maori music and dance from a native entertainment group. Overall, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
For Peslak, the trip was another highly enlightening experience, and he walked away from it even more committed to Penn State’s role in the global community.
“The multicultural experiences and partnerships have been invaluable in understanding both the similar problems we all face in the world and the different cultural and educational approaches we take to addressing these issues,” he said. “I believe that only by understanding these similarities and differences can we truly advance in working together to solve the world’s problems and advance human capacities and improve the lives of all of its peoples.”