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SVHEC formalizes partnership with international institution

South Boston News
From left, first row, Dr. Paul Winistorfer (Dean, VT College of Natural Resources), Marion Coy (GMIT President), Dr. Betty Adams (SVHEC executive director). Second row, Dr. Bob Bush (VT College of Natural Resources), Dr. Patrick Tobin (GMIT-Letterfrack), Michael Haddon (GMIT Student Services), Dr. Dermot O'Donovan (GMIT-Letterfrack) / April 09, 2010
The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) has joined with the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Letterfrack, Ireland. While the SVHEC has been working informally with the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) Letterfrack campus for over a year, the MOU formalizes that partnership and opens the door to future collaborations and student and faculty exchanges.

Dr. Betty Adams, executive director of the SVHEC, signed the MOU when she travelled to Letterfrack, Ireland in March with Virginia Tech administrators. Her trip was made possible by the generosity of the Halifax Educational Foundation (HEF). “The HEF quickly stepped in to make this mission critical trip possible. I am so very grateful for this and all the incredible support we receive on a daily basis from HEF staff and board members. This trip was an excellent investment,” Adams said.

The Galway–Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) is based at five locations in the west of Ireland. Its Letterfrack campus is located in a small village on the west coast of Ireland. GMIT-Letterfrack has approximately 200 students and is known internationally for its furniture program. Like SVHEC’s signature Business of Art & Design programming, the Letterfrack educational model is non-traditional in that it integrates real-world, project-based learning with creativity and collaboration. “We were so pleased to find the commonalities between our programs – it has been a natural fit. And because Letterfrack has been using this model for a number of years, the SVHEC has really benefitted from their experience,” Adams said. “I am most interested in exposing SVHEC students to international experiences and hope we’ll be sending students to Letterfrack soon.”

The MOU was signed at the Letterfrack campus. In attendance were Dr Paul Winistorfer, Virginia Tech Dean of the College of Natural Resources, Dr Robert Bush, Virginia Tech Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, Adams, GMIT President Marion Coy, and senior academics from the Letterfrack campus Dermot O’Donovan and Dr Paddy Tobin.

The SVHEC’s connection with GMIT began fall 2008 when Product Design and Development Coordinator David Kenealy travelled to Letterfrack with Winistorfer. Kenealy, in collaboration with his Letterfrack counterpart Tobin, worked out an opportunity for the SVHEC to host two interns from GMIT’s Furniture Production and Furniture Design programs in 2009. Currently, the SVHEC is hosting its third GMIT intern, Paul Heneghan. With the formal partnership now in place, the SVHEC is looking forward to sending students in its Business of Art & Design program for study abroad experiences in Letterfrack.

Tobin said, “Students and graduates from GMIT Letterfrack have had great success in America in recent years and the Galway-Virginia partnership will add exciting new options and opportunities in the coming years."

Kenealy, SVHEC director of research & development said, “When our conversations about education include phrases such as ‘creativity’, ‘innovation’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘excellence’ the references are most often used in connection to people. This is particularly true when we discuss our partnership with GMIT/Letterfrack. We have experienced tremendous professionalism as we plan with the GMIT faculty, and the standard of excellence found within the student interns who have been hosted by the SVHEC has been immediately apparent. As it should be, our students have greatly benefited from their exposure to the GMIT/Letterfrack connection."

A delegation of senior academics from GMIT, including Tobin, will spend several days at the SVHEC in late April. During their visit to South Boston the group will tour the SVHEC, the Prizery, and the new Innovation Center; meet with SVHEC staff; lunch with SVHEC students; and Tobin will discuss the Letterfrack model at an invitation-only reception celebrating the newly formalized partnership. Adams looks forward to strengthening the partnership and having an opportunity to showcase all of the SVHEC’s diverse offerings during the visit.

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is advancing the region by developing educational partnerships and opportunities. For more information about the SVHEC visit, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call 434-572-5440 and toll free 1-800-283-0098.

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