In an effort to offer support and ideas to a struggling Northern Ireland economy, two Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) leaders will participate in the State Department's inaugural Partnership Opportunity Delegation in Northern Ireland this week to discuss a number of partnership opportunities, and to highlight the university's vast expertise in running innovation-based summer camps that prepare K–12 learners for future success.
Stephen Flavin, vice president of academic and corporate development; and Linda Looft, assistant vice president of government and community relations, will be among 20 global participants in the three-day program in Limerick and Belfast. The program will explore the importance of expanding innovation partnerships with high-tech and creative industries, increasing opportunities for entrepreneurship, promoting global networks, and creating a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-based summer camp.
WPI was invited because of the university’s expertise in running middle- and high school summer camps as well as its reputation for innovative programming and entrepreneurship.
"Through their K–12 summer camps, WPI is doing great work in helping to give students the tools they need to be successful in a global economy," said Andrew O’Brien, Special Representative for Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State. "I look forward to having representatives from the school be part of the State Department's first Partnership Opportunity Delegation to Ireland and Northern Ireland that will focus on creating potential cross-sectoral partnership opportunities that to aim to boost STEM education and promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the region."
WPI provides one of the largest and most comprehensive university-based K–12 STEM outreach programs in the nation. Over the past 10 years WPI staff and faculty have engaged more than 115,000 girls and boys and 5,300 educators through STEM-focused programs that are targeted at students in elementary, middle, and secondary schools; programs that seek to engage girls and students from underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines; and programs that provide training and classroom resources for teachers.
The State Department is seeking to facilitate university-to-university connections as well as university-to-business opportunities. The WPI delegation noted that there are already established summer programs in Northern Ireland, and that Irish leaders are looking to discuss improved models and whether new resources would improve their delivery.
Flavin and Looft say they are aiming to develop a deeper connection to the State Department's Global Partnerships Office, particularly programs that may be a good resource for WPI’s Global Projects activities. Additionally, they would like to build WPI's name recognition with some important political and business leaders and tout the value of WPI's K–12 programs.
"This is a prime opportunity for WPI to discuss the benefits of robust K–12 programs, and to lend our support and encouragement to business and political leaders in Northern Ireland," said Flavin. "We're also looking forward to learning more from business leaders, philanthropists, and others about the important issues facing Northern Ireland."
The delegation is being co-led by O’Brien and John Hartnett, president and founder of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ILTG).
The delegation is organized around the ILTG Conference in Limerick scheduled for Jan. 28. Ireland President Michael D. Higgins will give remarks at the official opening of the conference, an event that will feature about 150 international business leaders, such as Craig Barrett, former chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation and chairman of ITLG.
During the visit, the delegation will also meet with the Belfast Harbour Commission, attend a STEM/entrepreneurship session at Belfast Metropolitan College, and attend programs promoting entrepreneurship and high-performance start-ups.
Other members of the delegation include Gregory Burton, U.S. Consul General in Belfast; Mary Kane, president and CEO of Sister Cities International; and Bob Mauro, director of the Irish Institute at Boston College.