College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | Cal Poly Humboldt partners with Australia university

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, June 6, 2024 - 12:30pm

There are many amazing things occurring around the North Coast. The changes we once thought were not possible are being discussed, enacted, or planned. One such item has been in the makings for years.

As the subsea cable was being installed a few years ago, Cal Poly Humboldt sought to find a university partner to work beside. This couldn’t be any partner. We were looking for a partner on the other end of the subsea cable that shared similarities with this campus. We found that partner.

This week, Cal Poly Humboldt and others formalized an international partnership, and it’s going to create amazing new opportunities for students and the broader community.

The partnership is among Charles Darwin University in Australia, Blue Lake Rancheria, Cal Poly Humboldt, and College of the Redwoods. A formal signing event was held Tuesday at Blue Lake Rancheria as part of a week-long trip to the area by the CDU delegation.

This is important because we live in a time of increasing globalization. Our students and our communities need knowledge and skills to help them engage internationally. Much like technology skills and digital literacy have become an important part of education, international competency is now seen as very important for future graduates.

The new agreement with Charles Darwin University and the North Coast organizations is broad, calling for cooperation in a number of areas: opportunities for students and staff to study, research, and work internationally; exchange of academic materials or information; exchange of information and ideas among First Nations communities; joint research and researcher exchange; cooperation in conferences, workshops, and symposiums; commerce exchange opportunities; and other agreed-upon opportunities.

While it all sounds somewhat formal, the many individuals involved can barely contain their enthusiasm in talking about the possibilities. Ideas like:

• Humboldt and CR students and faculty spending breaks doing research in very different natural environments, but ones that are threatened by very similar challenges including wildfire

• Australian students and faculty spending the summer learning about renewable energy approaches on the North Coast, while also sharing approaches that have worked in their home region

• Members of Indigenous communities sharing strategies for governance and economic development

• Shared research projects in areas of mutual strength, ranging from traditional Indigenous knowledge to microgrids to rural healthcare to joint publications

• Ongoing shared projects enabled by the future completion of the high-speed undersea internet cable that lands in Eureka and near CDU

Charles Darwin University is similar to Cal Poly Humboldt in many ways. While the first discussions of a possible partnership began due to the plans for a new undersea internet cable, it became apparent that there were many strong reasons for us to work closely together.

CDU is a very remote institution in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia, which makes up about one-sixth of Australia but has just 1% of the population, of whom 30% are First Nations Peoples. For context, the NT is larger than Texas and smaller than Alaska. Imagine Texas with only ONE university? This is how remote CDU is in Australia. As a university, it has particular focus and strengths in areas like traditional Indigenous knowledge, tribal governance and economic development, wildfire management, environmental sustainability, renewable energy, rural healthcare, health/medicine, research, and rural education at all levels.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

For Humboldt, this new partnership is part of a continuing effort to provide international opportunities for our students. We have been recognized for many years as a top university for placing graduates with the Peace Corps, and also have exchange programs and many faculty members who bring international perspectives. More recently, we have added an International Service Learning Program to offer students two-week experiences with communities in the Philippines and in Mexico.

We will keep working to develop similar opportunities, as we know there are substantial benefits. International study helps students feel comfortable with change, discover new strengths, and expand their problem-solving skills. It teaches them to work with others who have very different points of view and, of course, it can help them learn to communicate in other languages. Students who study abroad are more likely to graduate in four years and even have slightly higher GPAs. After graduation, global competencies provide substantially more opportunities and job prospects.

At Cal Poly Humboldt, we are focused every day on providing a positive, meaningful educational experience. We help students explore new ideas, gain a better understanding of themselves and others, and broaden their horizons. Internationalizing our programs, and creating a model global community, will be an increasingly important part of that effort, and our graduates will increasingly impact the world.

Be well.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt. Frank Whitlatch is the vice president for university advancement at Cal Poly Humboldt.