photo of UNH Graduate School alum Jordan Bronner

Expanding Horizons

A continued collaboration between a UNH professor and her former PhD student may lead the way for a potential student exchange program with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM).

Interim Dean of the Graduate School Cari Moorhead; Dr. Diane Foster, professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering; Paula DiNardo, National Student Exchange Coordinator and doctoral student in the Department of Education; and Alex Padilla, current PhD/NSF GRFP student, recently traveled to Puerto Rico to explore this possibility.

“The purpose of the visit to encourage continued collaboration and research between Dr. Foster and her former PhD student Dr. Silva Rodriquez who is now on the faculty at UPRM,” explained DiNardo. While the two professors would like to exchange undergraduate students through the already existing National Student Exchange at UNH, DiNardo said that they hope these students will continue their education in New Hampshire as graduate students.

photo of UNH doctoral student Bence Cserna

Dr. Sylvia Rodrigues Abudo with her mentor
and Ph.D Advisor, UNH Professor Diane Foster

“My roles as the UNH NSE coordinator is to recruit UNH students to exchange to any of our 160 member campus partners,” DiNardo said. “Visiting UPRM was important for me to see the campus, labs, and surrounding area. Because UNH has received exchange students from UPRM in the past, I was able to reconnect with several of our former exchange students. Some of these students are considering UNH for graduate school.”

Alex Padilla, now a PhD student in UNH’s Ocean Engineering program who attended UPRM as an undergraduate, said she encouraged students in Puerto Rico to seek research opportunities and consider participating in a semester exchange program at UNH. She is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship award.

“I know what it is like to be an undergraduate at UPRM and to how hard (or impossible) it feels to look for opportunities, especially in research,” Padilla said. “But, I also am proof that we can accomplish a lot when we put our minds to it and I want student at UPRM to know that.”

DiNardo explained that they “hope to use this project as a model for how other UNH academic departments can use the NSE program to broaden their curriculum AND increase and diversify applications to the UNH Graduate School.”

For more information, check out the National Student Exchange.

—Author Kristen Melamed