Advancing well-being with global partnerships

Speakers from the Symposium in Inclusion in Asset Building gathered during a special dual symposia in Singapore.

Washington University in St. Louis strives to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems, but the effort doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The university is fully engaged with a global network of partners, via education programs and research initiatives, to develop tangible and lasting solutions.

That effort was evidenced when Washington University recently arranged a cross-disciplinary international symposia highlighting the intersection of social policy, engineering and medicine.

Singapore Minister Desmond Lee delivers a keynote address during the symposia.

The event, “University Partnerships for Innovation: Advancing Human Well-being,” combined two gatherings: the International Symposium on Mechanobiology between Dec. 9-14, and the International Symposium on Inclusion in Asset Building on Dec. 14-15. A joint networking linking the two meetings was held on Dec. 14. All of the meetings took place at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

A variety of Washington University faculty gave keynote talks and held panel discussions with other global thought leaders focusing on the topics of mechanobiology, as well as inclusive asset building for children in under-served regions. While the topics varied from the mechanics of zebrafish to exploring finance options, both symposia stressed the common themes of innovation, global collaborations, and the link between technical and social advances.

Dedric Carter, vice chancellor for operations and technology transfer, delivered opening remarks and a keynote address at the symposia. Carter, who formerly served as senior advisor for strategic initiatives at the National Science Foundation in charge of developing the Innovation Corps program, noted that many of the challenges of translating innovation to reality internationally have parallels with those faced by researchers in the United States.

“The new ‘prosperity dream’ is fueled by innovation and entrepreneurship,” Carter said. “We must strive for communities to create mechanisms for forming relevant new ventures to spur positive regional, national and global economic ripple effects in the most broadly inclusive ways.  We can learn a lot from each other.”

“Our McDonnell Academy partners represent a network of global leaders in addressing problems of human well-being and social development,” said Guy Genin, professor of mechanical engineering & materials science at the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “NUS was a fitting site for bringing together these collaborators, given the strong history of innovation at the Next Age Institute and the NUS MechanoBiology Institute. The conversations started there are continuing, and have considerable potential for sustained collaborations amongst McDonnell partners.”

Genin and Michael Sherraden, the George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor of Social Work, served as facilitators during the symposia. In addition to keynotes, they led collaborative sessions that provided attendees a chance to listen to, learn from and work together with global thought leaders in their respective fields.

“The global research network that has been created by the McDonnell Academy spurs innovations for human well-being,” Sherraden said. “Washington University’s partnership with National University of Singapore is particularly strong in mechanobiology and lifelong asset building policy. Indeed, our two universities are global leaders in these areas. It makes sense to build on these strengths, and we are delighted to have this opportunity.

“A key theme in both social policy and the McDonnell Academy is that once a structure exists, you can adapt it to serve a broad population. Our research shows that focused investments in human well-being have far-reaching effects.”

Washington University’s ties to event host National University Singapore run deep: NUS is a McDonnell International Scholar Academy partner university, and the two schools have also forged the Next Age Institute, a partnership in applied scholarship between Washington University and NUS that studies, designs and tests social innovations designed to make a lasting, positive impact on a global scale. Five McDonnell Academy Partner institutions were represented at the symposia — Washington University, National University of Singapore, Peking University, National Taiwan University, and Xi’an Jiaotong University.

The symposia were sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the National University of Singapore’s Department of Social Work, Washington University’s Provost’s Office and the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.

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