IUPUI-Newcastle exchange enhances student experience, research opportunities, faculty collaboration

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Gil Latz, IUPUI's associate vice chancellor for international affairs, conducts a video conference with his colleagues at Newcastle University in England. The meeting was a check-in for the IUPUI-Newcastle exhange program. Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications

Tea in the sunshine sounds lovely, especially in the shadow of the historic University of Oxford in England. A certain teatime there 12 years ago led to a successful program between IUPUI and another British school.

Jason M. Kelly, then a graduate student and now an associate professor of British history at IUPUI, thought an exchange program would benefit IUPUI as well as his colleague Helen Berry's institution, Newcastle University.

By the time the tea cooled, the researchers had come up with a plan, and they took it to their respective schools. A couple of years later, the first IUPUI students visited Newcastle, and IUPUI hosted students from the United Kingdom.

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Jason M. Kelly, director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute and an associate professor of British history, co-founded the IUPUI-Newcastle exchange program while still a graduate student.  Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications

"We were off to the races," said Kelly, who is also director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute. "As we moved along, we asked what else we could do. We decided to also do collaborative projects together." 

The exchange has benefited dozens of students through the years with study abroad experience. It has also helped Kelly, Berry and other colleagues conduct new research. "Rivers of the Anthropocene" was published by the University of California Press in December, mostly because of the IUPUI-Newcastle exchange program. The hardcopy book is available through the publisher, and the digital version is available for free through OpenAccess.org

Kelly and Berry saw similarities in their institutions along with the history of Indianapolis and the Newcastle region, which made the connection more natural.

"We are in the Ohio River system, and they are in the Tyne River system there," Kelly said. "They are both important, historic and industrial rivers. One of the things that characterizes both of them is their history of energy flow: coal, fossil fuels and crops."

The exchange has given undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and faculty members a taste of academia across the Atlantic.

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The IUPUI-Newcastle exchange recently yielded a book, "Rivers of the Anthropocene," through the efforts of history researchers from both universities. Photo by Tim Brouk, IU Communications

"Newcastle has the reputation for high academic standards, which is 100 percent true," Kelly said. "When our students go abroad, they get a very high-quality education from wonderful professors.” 

While programs in liberal arts and arts and humanities were first to benefit, more programs have come onto the exchange. Since 2015, the School of Dentistry has sent 10 students a year for a 10-day "Maymester" experience. Eight Newcastle students visit IUPUI in July. Dr. Joan Kowolik, a professor of pediatric dentistry and a native Scot, believes the exchange has given her students a different view for their studies. The young future dentists dive into all facets of the field. 

"Our students would be talking to Newcastle students about Medicaid and Medicare," Kowolik said. "So Newcastle students would talk about the National Health Service -- how it works and the limitations."

Kowolik said the IUPUI students encounter a stricter environment -- no hair that touches the collar, no rings, no nail polish, no sneakers, a lot more medicated wipes than plastic bags -- but the actual dentistry is the same. Also, the students get the luxury of being near Scotland, three-plus hours from London and close to Ireland. An international airport near the school can whisk them away to Rome for the weekend. The dentistry students document their experiences via video diary and then give a presentation about their experience. They touch on the clinics, community outreach and their social experiences. 

"America isn't the only place that does crowns and implants," Kowolik said. "They get a taste of international dentistry thanks to this exchange."