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Professor Maher from Nazareth College: Transatlantic Dual Degree collaboration with Laurea continues to deepen

Professor Maher has cooperated with Laurea since 2007. According to Maher, the key to good cooperation lies in the match of approaches and goals.

Professor Mary Dahl Maher

This year marks 70 successful years of Fulbright cooperation between Finland and the United States. In Finland, activities are coordinated by the Fulbright Finland Foundation, which supports the internationalisation of Finnish higher education institutions and, through Finnish-American education and research collaboration and educational contacts, promotes a broader exchange of knowledge and professional competence between Finland and the United States.

Professor Mary Dahl Maher from Nazareth College, USA, is an experienced Fulbright partner. In the context of a Fulbright exchange programme, Maher is now visiting Finland and Laurea for the sixth time, providing instruction to Laurea’s nursing students.

A midwife by education, Professor Maher arrived in Finland in August and has now spent nearly two months here.  Maher’s visit began with a one-week seminar and networking with other Fulbright researchers. 

- Our exchange week began with a visit to the Ambassador’s home, where we also met the Finnish Foreign Minister. This is a good example of the kind of cooperation that is carried out between our two countries – learning more about one another, offering insight into true American features, instead of only the picture presented by the media, Maher explains.

Together we are stronger: LbD enables agile cooperation between higher education institutions

Laurea and Nazareth College have signed a Transatlantic Dual Degree cooperation agreement. In this context, dual degree means a double degree in nursing where students graduate as nurses from both Laurea and Nazareth College. A double degree always comprises at least one study module abroad. Laurea’s students working on a degree in Nursing can apply to the programme through a separate admissions process. The admissions process is organised annually in December–January. Two places are granted each year. 

The Dual Degree model for higher education institutions is unique. No other higher education institution in the world offers nursing qualification in Finland, Europe and the USA. 

The cooperation agreement has enabled Maher to cooperate with Laurea since 2007. During this time, some 50 students have completed a double degree. Maher has also worked with Laurea’s nursing experts to design study units that are now organised in Laurea jointly with the partner university. 

This time, Maher gave guest lectures for Bachelor’s students in the Global Health study unit and Master’s students in the Development and Management in Health Care study unit. 

- Our cooperation is an excellent example of Laurea’s success in internationalising its operations as part of other strategic work. It has been interesting to teach and supervise students in study units with students from eight different countries, speaking 13 different languages.

Many higher education institutions have tried – and failed – to create similar cooperation. According to Maher, the key to good cooperation lies in the match of approaches and goals: Laurea’s LbD action model makes for a more flexible and agile approach. Nazareth College, in turn, values globalisation and internationalisation and emphasises the philosophical and ethical perspective in nursing education. The result is a perfect package. 

- The liberal arts approach in nursing helps us understand philosophical approaches and ethics and to write well, and the humanities aspect that nursing is both an art and a science. We offer the liberal arts approach and Laurea offers us learning by developing, says Maher.

Cooperation to expand into social services and online

In the future, Laurea and Nazareth College plan to deepen and expand their cooperation. 

- We cooperate with Laurea in nursing, but now we would like to expand cooperation into the field of social services,” says Maher, excited. Another idea is to improve online study opportunities by providing joint study units either partly or fully online.

Maher will return to Finland and Laurea in May, accompanied by the head of the social services department and 15 students of Nazareth College. The goal is to carry out a cooperation project for the World Village event as part of social services and health care studies. Some of the studies will be completed online before the actual event. Afterwards, the participants will reflect on their joint learning. 

- We will continue our unique cooperation with Laurea as regards the double degree. Every time I visit here, we try to further deepen our cooperation, Maher emphasises.

In Maher’s opinion, the most fruitful part of cooperation comes from learning to really understand Finnish society, culture and history, the connection between the two countries and the significance of cooperation. 

- Finnish is a difficult language, and every time I visit the country, I learn a bit more of the language. I can say ‘good’, ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you’ in Finnish. I learn a few new words during each visit. This time, I was happy to notice that the Finnish language no longer sounds that strange to the ear, says Maher, smiling.