The Malmö Symposium
By: Kelly Fidler
In early October, twenty six scholars from Malmö University (MAH) in Malmö, Sweden visited RIT for a three day symposium. “Sustainable Urban Development: International Perspectives on the University as Partner in the Transformation of The Post-Industrial City” was held October 3-5 in Louise M. Slaughter Hall.
The Malmö Symposium was an outgrowth of a developing relationship between RIT and MAH. This unique relationship has been built from friendship of RIT Professor of Philosophy, Timothy Engström. This month’s featured faculty, Engtström has been an integral part of the development of the RIT-MAH partnership. Studying in Sweden for his undergraduate degree, the future initiation of the collaboration would be between Engström and his college best-friend’s wife. In 2009 Engström was invited to be a guest lecturer at Malmö University, resulting in conversations about the similarities of RIT and MAH. These conversations led to a number of visits between the universities, which have created the deep relationship forming today.
The symposium itself was a huge success, thanks in no small part to the efforts of senior associate dean M. Ann Howard. Professor Howard has been an integral part in building the relationship with MAH and is considered by many the “matriarch” of the relationship. Panels included topics ranging from urban and social sustainability to international innovation with a major focus on the “value of the university to the cities of Malmö and Rochester,” said Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, according to RIT University News. Both Howard and Engström noted the personalization of the presentations. The individuals were not only enthusiastically presenting their research, but did so with a passion that showed a true appreciation for the relationship at hand and the potential collaborations associated with the partnership Each of RIT’s nine colleges had representatives participating in the three-day symposium.
While the foundation of the relationship is based in the College of Liberal Arts, the entire university will benefit from the connection with MAH. Engström mentioned, “both universities want to form a unique personal academic relationship with joint student and faculty mobility, course collaboration, and joint degree programs.” With the outstanding similarities of the two schools, building on the already strong relationship RIT has formed with MAH could produce a beneficial addition for the academic world as well as the community.
Like RIT, MAH is also located in a post-industrial city similar in some key ways to Rochester where “the university has become a key agent in reinvention,” says Engström. These cross-continent similarities have led to the formation of a sister city relationship that is in the works. Senior associate dean Ann Howard’s own community engaged research has helped foster a university partnership that is also a community and civic partnership. Having discussed the opportunities at hand with the mayor of Malmö, she is now pioneering a friendship committee that will spend the coming years planning and implementing the city-to-city connection.
Now, at the end of October 2013, the College of Liberal Arts and RIT have an established relationship with yet another top international university. The students and faculty across the campus will see the benefits of this partnership for years to come, and the city of Rochester, through the dedication of its community members will soon have another sister.