A year ago, educators from the United States and Ireland met in Dublin to talk about common issues; that conversation moves to West Virginia University this weekend.

“So many of the things that the Irish higher education leaders were talking about, in terms of challenges, were very familiar to us,” says WVU Chief of Staff Jay Cole, who attended the 2009 Irish American Higher Education Research Organization conference. Others from West Virginia included WVU interim president Peter Magrath; Carolyn Long, chairman of WVU’s Board of Governors; and Brian Noland, chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

“The Irish talked about accountability, governance structures, tough economic conditions and budget cuts, the need for their institutions to be more engaged in research and more competitive in securing research funding. So many things they were talking about resonated with us because we have some of the very same challenges,” Cole said.

And that’s why Cole immediately sought to bring the 2010 gathering to Morgantown.

It also helped that West Virginia is comparable in size to Ireland. IA/HERO focuses on states of comparable size and scope in order to facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices. Cole said WVU’s involvement in IA/HERO could eventually lead to institutional partnerships and exchanges with Irish institutions. But he said the main benefit to being in the group is getting a comparative perspective on common challenges and their possible solutions.

“In some cases we’ll face the same issues but the Irish take a different attitude or different approach and we can build from that,” Cole said. “We are similar enough for our discussions to be meaningful but different enough to be enlightening.”

Thirteen representatives from Irish institutions of higher learning and delegates from the region and other countries will be in Morgantown Thursday through Saturday for this year’s conference, entitled “Strengthening Connections Between K-12 and Higher Education To Serve the Innovation Society.” The meeting will include discussions, tours and educational opportunities, mainly focused on developing students’ critical thinking skills, enhancing their math skills and preparing high-quality teachers.

IA/HERO was established in 2004 by George Mason University and Ireland’s Higher Education Authority to examine and respond to the challenges facing higher education in both nations. Conferences alternate between the U.S. and Ireland each year.



CONTACT: WVU University Relations – News

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