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An Icelandic Connection: Teachers College and Reykjavik University
In June, Teachers College signed a memorandum of understanding with Iceland's Reykjavik University that will encourage and support a wide range of academic exchanges between the two institutions over the next three years.
Founded only a decade ago, Reykjavik University is Iceland's first private university and among the first of the growing number of private universities in Europe. Like TC, it brings together a range of disciplines, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees through a School of Business, a School of Computer Science, a School of Health and Education, a School of Law and a School of Science and Engineering. Under its President, Svafa Gronfeldt, it is seeking to become a leading center for international research collaboration for scholars and scientists from Europe and North America, along the lines of Aalborg University in Denmark, Ben Gurion University in Israel and the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands.
"As Iceland's first private institution of higher learning, Reykjavik University has not only put itself on an accelerated track to excellence, but also stimulated a higher level of achievement by the University of Iceland and a higher level of scientific and academic research nationwide," said TC President Susan Fuhrman in an address she delivered at Reykjavik University's 10th anniversary commencement in June. "Like those institutions, you explicitly recognize that, in the face of linked international economies and shared challenges in health and to the environment, education has become one of the most important global issues of our time-'"and perhaps the most preeminent form of global currency."
Fuhrman toured Iceland during her visit, meeting with the nation's Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, and President, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who has been invited to speak at Columbia University's World Leaders Forum in September.
The link between TC and RU grew out of a visit to TC in 2004 by Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, dean of RU's School of Health and Education, in which she met with two TC faculty members, John Allegrante (in health education) and Bruce Vogeli (in mathematics education). Both Allegrante and Vogeli have since spent time at RU, with Allegrante serving as Acting Dean and Fulbright visiting professor in place of Sigfusdottir during fall 2007 while she was on academic leave, working with Iceland's Ministry of Health and Social Security.
Allegrante and Sigfusdottir have co-authored, with other researchers, several publications on the topic of health and academic achievement, as well as on an intervention approach called "The Icelandic Model", whose nation-wide implementation has been credited with contributing to lowering the incidence of substance abuse among Icelandic teenagers. In surveys of over 7,000 adolescents ages 14 to 16, the researchers found that through use of the model-'"which positions schools at the center of communitywide efforts to bring parents into closer contact with their children and encourages them to better monitor their children's activities and friendships-'"self-reported cigarette use dropped by 58 percent between 1998 and 2007; self-reported use of alcohol dropped more than 50 percent during the same time period; and self-reported experimentation with marijuana dropped by 60 percent.
Published Monday, Aug. 4, 2008