By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney continues to expand its global footprint.
Representatives from UNK and the National University of Engineering (UNI) in Nicaragua signed an agreement Tuesday that creates a new partnership between the two institutions. It’s the first-ever bilateral agreement between UNK and a school in Nicaragua.
“We’re very excited about this partnership and the potential benefits it provides for students, faculty and staff at both institutions. This relationship will further internationalize our campus and community while creating opportunities to collaborate in a variety of academic areas,” said Traci Gunderson, an assistant director in UNK’s Office of International Education.
One of four public universities in Nicaragua, UNI specializes in engineering and architecture. The university, among the most prestigious in the country, has an enrollment of around 10,000 students across its three campuses.
The partnership agreement opens the door for cultural exchange programs that allow Lopers to study or teach in Nicaragua and bring UNI students and faculty to Kearney.
Freddy Marin Serrano, general secretary at UNI, said they’re especially interested in UNK’s English Language Institute, which provides training for nonnative English speakers. This program would benefit UNI students, as well as instructors who plan to pursue master’s or doctoral degrees at English-speaking universities.
UNK also offers top-notch training in teaching pedagogy, instructional technology and curriculum and instruction.
“The quality of every university is determined by the quality of its teachers,” said Marin, who wants UNI students and faculty to come to Kearney, then return to Nicaragua to share their experiences and practice what they learned.
Research is another important aspect of the collaboration.
Both universities are members of the DELFIN research program, which includes more than 200 academic institutions and research centers in Latin and North America. UNI leads the research program in Nicaragua and UNK is the only member institution from the U.S.
The program’s main objective is to connect undergraduate students with faculty researchers from other member institutions, either abroad or within the same country. These students spend seven weeks at the host institution while working on a faculty-led summer research project. DELFIN also publishes a journal showcasing faculty research and hosts an annual conference in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, where students present their projects and member institutions promote their programs.
Juan Guzman, director of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, hopes to see involvement from all three of UNK’s academic colleges, as well as other offices on campus.
“This partnership brings so many opportunities for UNK and Kearney. In addition to the academic impact, we can enrich our lives by meeting new people and experiencing a different culture,” said Guzman, who works with the Office of International Education to develop relationships with higher education institutions in Latin America.
Nearly 300 international students from 56 countries currently attend UNK, but none are from Nicaragua. That’s likely to change in the near future.
Marin and UNI Vice Chancellor Daniel Cuadra Horney are on campus this week to tour buildings, learn about academic programs and student services and meet with deans, administrators and faculty.
“We really are very impressed,” Marin said. “The passion for students and their success here is incredible. This is not something I’ve seen at other universities.”
“We have agreements with many other universities, but I have a feeling that we are going to succeed with you,” he added.