Local News

January 19, 2011

Dalton State partners with two Belgium schools

Dalton State College officials are partnering with two schools in Brussels in an effort to expand its international offerings.

Dalton State officials signed letters of intent with representatives from Erasmus University College and Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel (HUB) on Wednesday, laying the groundwork for exchange programs as early as next year.

Baogang Guo, associate professor of political science and director of Dalton State’s Center for International Education, said some of the possibilities the schools’ leaders have discussed are student exchanges and internships, faculty exchanges, exchanging educational materials and information through libraries and exchanging administrators.

“I think the business department will have no problem finding students to send over,” Guo said. “This is all part of an effort to internationalize our campus.”

Erasmus has an arts program as well as academic and professional programs and serves about 5,000 students in six locations throughout Brussels. HUB serves nearly 7,000 students in Brussels’ city center and concentrates mostly on economics and business.

Ingeborg Vandenbulcke, head of the Center for Internationalization and Projects at HUB, said officials hope to begin student exchanges by spring 2012. Most of its current student exchanges are within Europe, she said, but the college wants to expand its offerings.

Ann Langenakens, dean of education at Erasmus, said that school does not have a business program but does plan exchanges for education and communication students in particular. Brussels is located two hours from Paris, three hours from London and two from Amsterdam, she said.

Stefaan Debrabandere, liaison officer for International Relations School of Commerce at HUB, said organizers are also considering a program in which Dalton State professors would teach Dalton State students at the school for a short time. It would help solve the language barrier, he said, and it would still provide an experience they wouldn’t get in the United States.

The language of instruction at the two Belgium institutions is Dutch, and a bachelor’s degree in Europe takes three years rather than four to complete. Students are expected to have learned in high school the general education curricula most students in the United States cover during their freshman and sometimes sophomore years of college.

Jef Valkeniers, former mayor of Dilbeek, Belgium, was the liaison between the three colleges. Valkeniers helped found the sister city relationship between Dalton and his town 25 years ago and said he sought out schools to partner with Dalton State to further strengthen the relationship with Belgium.

Valkeniers, a neuro-psychiatrist, said he studied in New York and interned at Ellis Hospital in the late 1950s. Many international medical students then learned medical terms in French but now learn them in English, he said. Valkeniers said that speaks to America’s importance in the world and to the value students can get from studying here.

Dalton State President John Schwenn said the college will continue to pursue international opportunities “wherever that’s a possibility.”

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