What does a university in Mexico City, a German transdisciplinary methods centre and the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at UTS have in common? A passion for innovative research and education that cross boundaries to create social and environmental change.
Associate Professor Dena Fam from ISF and Professor Ulli Vilsmaier, head of the Global Alliance for Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research and Education, were visiting fellows to Ibero-Americana University in Mexico City in December 2019. There, they facilitated a symposium on transdisciplinary research and education for faculty Deans and senior staff. The week-long intensive of workshops and interactive presentations provided Mexican colleagues with the opportunity to develop and test ideas for successfully institutionalising transdisciplinary collaboration across faculties and the university.
Ibero-Americana University, recognised as one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America, is set to restructure its strategy and campus operations to support transdisciplinary collaboration across departments, developing degrees, programs and short courses that cross disciplines and thematic areas.
The Australian and German researchers introduced senior staff and management to a range of transdisciplinary concepts, tools and methods, particularly drawing on recent UTS research led by Associate Professor Fam and Professor Lesley Hitchens, identifying challenges to implementing Interdisciplinary degrees at UTS.
The values of Ibero-Americana University reflect Jesuit philosophies, with a specific goal to provide all students with opportunities to work in local communities for the common good. This successful linking of academia and community engagement impressed the visitors.
There was a wonderful cultural exchange of ideas on what collaboration means and how it might be facilitated with the confines of our institutions. We were able to share the twenty years of experience in developing transdisciplinary models [from ISF], but also learn so much from the long history of community engaged education from Ibero-Americana.Associate Professor Fam, 2019.
By the end of the week staff and management at Ibero-American University had shared cross cultural perspectives on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to research and education and developed new structures of integrative degrees, programs and courses, drawing on experience from UTS and Luephana University, Germany.
There are now plans for further cultural exchange events in both universities, with visiting fellows expected to visit UTS and follow-up capacity-building workshops to come.