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Communications with Dutch lead to linkage
November 9, 1998

The University's new communications ties with a Dutch university speak to the virtues of good, old-fashioned communications - one-to-one conversations.

Out of such conversations grew a relationship between UConn and Fontys University in The Netherlands.

As one of the first steps, UConn is hosting a communications student intern from Fontys this semester. The University and Fontys also are conducting a joint research project on how Internet communications fit into corporate strategies.

Other plans include faculty exchanges, UConn students studying at Fontys, and Fontys graduates coming here to study for a master's degree.

The ties grew out of a relationship Karen Grava, manager of media communications, built with Fontys faculty members Addy Ruts and Jan van der Berg at meetings of the Public Relations Society of America in Baltimore and St. Louis in 1995 and 1996.

"Addy asked, 'Can we bring students to visit UConn? We're looking for a university to partner with,'" Grava says.

Last November, Fontys brought 60 students and seven faculty members to visit UConn before the PRSA meeting in Nashville, Tenn. The group stayed in a residence hall and attended several communications science classes, before heading for Nashville and the PRSA conference. The University also hosted a panel of Connecticut public relations specialists: Emmanuel Forde, now retired, from Northeast Utilities; Sandy Hamer of Hamer Associates; and Mark Sullivan of United Technologies.

In the meantime, Grava says, James Watt, professor of communications sciences, expressed interest in a partnership with Fontys because of its reputation and programs.

Last spring, Sjef van den Berg, assistant professor, visited Fontys while in his native Holland and was impressed with Fontys' programs and emphasis on technology..

He says the tie with Fontys accomplishes a number of things for UConn.

"We're looking at it as a likely site where our communications majors can do their junior year abroad," he says. "They are strong in advertising, marketing and marketing communications."

He says Fontys also is strong in new communications technology such as World Wide Web communications.

"They don't have a graduate program in communications, but they have students who are interested in one. We can offer them that," van den Berg says.

As part of the joint research project, Ruts and another Fontys professor, Ad Dekkers, visited UConn last week.

Last summer, Grava visited Fontys, which is in Eindhoven, a major industrial city and headquarters of Philips, the electronics giant. While there she interviewed Kirsten van der Kallen, who is working this fall as an intern in the University Communications Department. It is one of two internships van der Kallen must complete before she graduates in the year 2000. Van der Kallen says she would like to do her second internship at an advertising agency in New York.

She is living on campus to get a feel for American university life.

"Our university doesn't have a campus. It's in five buildings in the city. Our dormitories are rooms in ordinary houses, and they're not concentrated in one area," van der Kallen says. "I love it here at Storrs."

She will be in Storrs until the end of January.

Ken Ross