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Growing an Exchange Program

May 31, 2012

Swedish KTH meeting
Linda Andersson (l-r), Dr. Luchen Li, Dr. David Purdy

Dr. Luchen Li of Rose-Hulman's Office of Global Programs once invited the king of Sweden to Flint Michigan to see an innovative implementation of Swedish technology - and the king accepted. While that's a hard act to follow, Dr. Li was making connections once again as he brought two representatives of the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) to Rose-Hulman on May 30 to meet Rose-Hulman faculty and discuss possibilities for student exchanges between schools. By day's end, the Global Programs Associate Dean had a firm commitment from the KTH reps, Linda Andersson and Helena Legnell, that KTH would receive Rose-Hulman exchange students.

For Rose-Hulman juniors and seniors, the transition into KTH classes shouldn't be too traumatic - at KTH all upper level classes are taught in English. As  Andersson presented a PowerPoint tour of her school's academic programs to Rose-Hulman faculty from Physics, Chemistry, Engineering Management, Chemical Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering, she pointed out that nearly a quarter of KTH's student population of almost 14,000 are students visiting from other countries. KTH also offers many dual degrees in conjunction with schools of other countries.

As a University, KTH is divided into "nine decentralized schools," which means, according to Andersson, "you don't get the interdisciplinary aspect" that students experience at Rose-Hulman. On the plus side, Andersson mentioned, turning to Dr. Throne of the ECE department, the School of Communications and Information Technology is located in "Kista, the Silicon Valley of Sweden - Ericsson is located there." She added that the KTH School of Computer Science and the School of Chemical Science and Engineering are "very keen on developing a relationship with Rose-Hulman."

On this trip to the United States, the KTH team will have visited schools in Houston, Champaign-Urbana and Chicago, along with Rose-Hulman. Swedish Schools like KTH are aggressively seeking international exchanges because of the high demand among European employers for students who've had foreign study.

"To have an experience outside of Sweden is very valued in Sweden - some companies won't hire you if you don't have outside experience," Andersson said. For that reason, she explained, KTH tries to be very liberal when they look at how a course from another country might fit the student's academic requirements.

When Dr. Craig Downing enquired about the Engineering Management School, one of KTH's most competitive schools, Andersson said that as many as 85 percent of these students go abroad. Singularly focused on gaining competitive edge in the job market, these students, said Andersson, are "very calculating." The other top competitive school, the School of Engineering Physics, piqued the interest of Rose-Hulman professor of Physics and Optical Engineering Dr. Michael McInerney. "We are just starting engineering physics. Collaboration might be useful," stated  McInerney. He posited possible student research projects born of collaboration between professors from each school.  

Swedish Reps Lengell
Helena Lengell, center, with (l-r) Dr. Throne, Dr. Craig Downing,
Dr. Michael Mueller.

Andersson praised Rose-Hulman for having Humanities in the curriculum, remarking that the option of an Economics degree caught her attention. KTH doesn't offer Humanities. "It's a problem," Andersson said. "If you want to educate leaders, you need the soft skills."

After some hard facts about how many "contact hours" a KTH course involves or how a 7-week course might fit into a 10-week quarter, Andersson and Lengell offered a lot of "soft" information about Swedish culture, starting with the popularity of sustainable practices in European culture. "It's big, sustainability," said Andersson. "You drive a car and people are almost upset with you."

Swedish summer is about 22 hours of daylight and three hours of "dark dusk," according to Andersson. During the winter, you can ice skate in about two hours from KTH to Uppsala (where Rose-Hulman has another successful exchange program). But it is always dark, and Andersson admitted she found it a bit depressing. She scoffed at the popular Swedish bromide that the dark is "cozy. We can light candles."

"That's what they tell us," Lengell quipped.

"We can light candles any time," Andersson added.

The KTH visitors' itinerary also included a tour of Rose-Hulman, lunch at Logan's and a requested tour stop from their bucket list of yet-to-be-seen Americana: Walmart.