Global Education Expands

Father Steve with St. Joe's delegates

Seattle U partners with Jesuit school in India.

Written by Tracy DeCroce
Photography by Yosef Kalinko
September 18, 2017

Pictured above: President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., and Seattle University's Joe Orlando meet with professors and representatives from St. Joseph's College in Bangalore, India, who visited campus in late spring.

Seattle University has formed a strategic partnership with St. Joseph’s College in Bangalore, India, as part of its ever-expanding commitment to global education. The two Jesuit institutions signed a memorandum of understanding in the spring during a St. Joseph’s delegation visit to Seattle U. The partnership promotes collaboration in research, teaching and service learning across multiple disciplines.

Like Seattle, Bangalore is a technology hub recognized worldwide. Nearly 40 percent of India’s information technology industry is concentrated there, which is considered the Silicon Valley of India.

In recent years, Seattle U and St. Joseph faculty and staff have laid the groundwork for the partnership through teaching exchanges and immersion trips. Student exchanges are expected to begin this academic year.

“We’ve already established bonds,” said Richard Rego, S.J., St. Joseph’s director of global engagement. “Now we’re taking it to the next level. We’d like to see a regular movement of students and faculty involved in joint projects.” Father Rego, also a communications and journalism professor, taught at Seattle U last year on a faculty exchange.

Collaboration between Seattle U’s College of Science and Engineering and St. Joseph’s sciences departments is already underway. (See side bar.) Other academic departments, including business, social work and communications, have expressed interest in collaborating and there is potential for reciprocal community service initiatives, according to Seattle U’s Russell Powell, J.D., PhD., associate provost for global engagement.

The Seattle U-St. Joseph’s partnership is based on the highly successful Central America initiative, launched in 2013 in which the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in Managua, Nicaragua, serves as the primary partner. More than 20 educational and service projects are underway as part of that initiative.

Global Lake Research
There are more similarities than differences between Seattle University and St. Joseph’s College, say faculty from both Jesuit institutions—and that has enabled a smooth and speedy lift-off to their global partnership.

“The basic soul of both of these places is the same. There are a lot of parallels between how we do things,” said St. Joseph’s Biotechnology Assistant Professor Susan Mary Philip, PhD.

Collaboration between the two institutions has already begun in the sciences where the role of research is the same: to engage and teach students.

“At SU and St. Joseph’s, research is centered on the student experience,” says Seattle U Associate Professor Carolyn Stenbak, PhD. “We’re doing global, collaborative research that addresses critical urban health issues while providing students with the technical skills and cultural awareness to prepare them for the scientific careers of the future.”

One promising area of collaboration involves fresh-water lake research that began four years ago by a cross-disciplinary team in the College of Science and Engineering. The research team includes Stenbak, who specializes in viruses and immunology; Associate Professor Lindsay Whitlow, PhD., whose specialty is ecology; and Assistant Professor Michael Zanis, PhD., who specializes in botany, genomics, and bioinformatics. “This is an innovative project that bridges field ecology with modern molecular biology techniques,” Zanis says.

Each summer, the research team has mentored students studying how a naturally occurring virus might be involved in regulating algae blooms in fresh-water lakes. That same virus family is active in lakes throughout the world, including those in Bangalore. Their plan is to form a collaborative team of faculty and students from SU and St. Joseph’s so that students from both institutions can contribute to a globally relevant research project.

“More and more our students and graduates are working to address problems with partners from all over the world,” Whitlow says. “We need to give them opportunities to develop the scientific and cultural skills to succeed.”