Carolina-Tübingen partnership reaffirmed with visit

A delegation from UNC-Chapel Hill discussed shared interests and collaboration with the German university’s new president.

Seven people posing for a group photo
UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Chancellor for Research Penny Gordon-Larsen (third from right) said the two universities share similarities in size, collaborative approach and research interests. (University of Tübingen)

Leaders at UNC-Chapel Hill and its longtime strategic partner Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in Germany are finding new pathways for interdisciplinary collaborations.

“Big, complex problems demand global partnership and a multidisciplinary approach,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz during a summer visit to Tübingen. “Our partnership is an example of how we’re contributing to society by breaking out of silos and solving the grand challenges of our time.”

Guskiewicz was there with a Carolina delegation that included Vice Chancellor for Research Penny Gordon-Larsen, Vice Provost for Global Affairs Barbara Stephenson and Hussman School of Journalism and Media Dean Raul Reis. The group discussed the universities’ shared interests and collaborations with Tübingen’s new president and other leaders.

“The visit, which included a substantive meeting with Tübingen’s new president, Karla Pollmann, affirmed the strength of the UNC-Tübingen partnership,” Stephenson said. “Not only do we share academic strengths, but we are also committed to similar goals for producing research that benefits society.”

According to Gordon-Larsen, the two universities share similarities in size, collaborative approach and research in cancer, data science, media studies and more. “Our shared emphasis on research excellence, innovation and impact transcends disciplines and borders,” she said.

The visit coincided with the conference “The Weaponization of Knowledge” and the workshop “Humanities, Health, and Science: Exploring the Power of Narratives.” Both the conference and the workshop were funded by a joint seed fund established in 2022 by Carolina and Tübingen to support interdisciplinary collaborations in data science.

“Weaponization” conference organizers included Carolina faculty members Tori Smith Ekstrand (Hussman School of Journalism and Media), Priscilla Layne (College of Arts and Sciences) and Francesca Tripodi (School of Information and Library Science). Astrid Franke, professor of American studies at Tübingen, hosted the “Humanities, Health and Science” workshop with Carolina English department faculty members Courtney Rivard, Kym Weed and Jordynn Jack.

“The problems we face in democratic governance worldwide will only be addressed through interdisciplinary dialogue,” Ekstrand said. “This kind of cooperation among colleagues and global partners is essential to defining the problem and addressing it.”

Stephenson sees faculty engagement as a cornerstone of the partnership. “While this partnership has long counted on strong support from university leadership, faculty play a critical role in making our relationship with Tübingen vibrant. This visit has clearly demonstrated their integral involvement,” she said.