Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

November 22, 2004

U of G, Iceland enhance ties

The University of Guelph announced today it’s creating a new institute aimed at enhancing and promoting collaborations with Iceland’s institutions of higher learning.

The Iceland-Guelph Institute will build on long-standing relationships between Guelph and Hólar University College, the University of Iceland, University of Akureyri and Hvanneyri Agricultural University. It will provide faculty, researchers and students with additional opportunities for exchange programs, distance education courses and interdisciplinary research.

“I am very pleased to be formalizing what is already a highly successful partnership,” said U of G president Alastair Summerlee during a special event at the University attended by Gudmundur Eiriksson, the Icelandic ambassador to Canada; Gail Einarson-McCleery, the honorary Icelandic counsel in Toronto; and Skuli Skulason, rector of Hólar University College.

U of G has been collaborating with Hólar and other institutions in Iceland for the past 20 years, said Summerlee, who visited the country this spring and met with university and government leaders. “We’ve been sharing knowledge and learning experiences for a considerable amount of time. We’ve learned not only about interrelations between our two countries but also about how we approach environmental, scientific, cultural and ethical issues in our home countries. It’s a relationship with even more potential.”

Skulason, who received his PhD in zoology from U of G and was one of its first Icelandic students, added: “We’ve been looking for ways to provide students, faculty and staff with more opportunities for learning and growth. We hope the new Iceland-Guelph Institute will heighten interest and participation at both ends.”

The Iceland-Guelph Institute will develop joint activities and programs in both countries that will be delivered via exchange and distance education and allow students to study at both institutions. It will also raise funds to support initiatives such as a lecture series.

Skulason and his former graduate adviser, Guelph zoology professor David Noakes, were instrumental in establishing the institute and in the earlier collaborations. In 1995, they started an interdisciplinary academic exchange program with U of G and Iceland’s four universities and colleges. It has provided teaching and research opportunities in areas ranging from history to industrial psychology and from zoology to fine arts. “The great strength of our exchange has been the considerable breadth of interests of people involved,” Noakes said.

In the past decade, some 200 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff have participated in field courses and research projects. Psychology professor Steven Cronshaw, co-ordinator of the Iceland-Guelph exchange program, will be the institute’s interim director. He said there is a commonality of interests between the countries and universities, especially in the environmental and natural sciences.

In addition, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the former president of Iceland, received an honorary doctorate from Guelph in 1998, and two scholarships were established in her name for Icelandic students pursuing graduate degrees at Guelph.

Today, U of G also awarded its most prestigious graduate award, the Brock Doctoral Fellowship, to Icelander Bjarni Kristjansson, who earned an M.Sc. degree at Guelph and is returning for his PhD.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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