The Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and the Department of Economics have partnered with economics and statistics faculty at the University of Innsbruck to offer graduate students from both universities an exchange program that will allow them to take classes and conduct research at the respective partner institution.

The program will allow students to participate in an exchange under a full tuition waiver and transfer of earned credits.

Virginia Tech Professor Klaus Moeltner, who is serving as the program’s Virginia Tech faculty coordinator, said, “It’s quite rare to have an international exchange that focuses squarely on the graduate level.”

And while undergraduate exchange programs are more the norm than in past years, graduate students can also benefit from academic exchanges.

“Establishing a bilateral exchange program with the University of Innsbruck provides unique opportunities for graduate students,” said Chelsey Watts, the Virginia Tech Global Education Office assistant director for partnerships and affiliations. “In addition to gaining a broader worldview through experiencing a different culture first-hand, graduate students can experience the added benefit of incorporating an international perspective into their studies and research.”

Through the program, students can also build their academic and professional repertoires.

“For graduate students, adding that international experience to their program of study could be very beneficial, especially if a student’s dissertation deals with a European topic,” said Moeltner. “Being there and able to talk with and do research with people who live there will be valuable.”

Being in Europe will also give students easier access to attend international conferences and network with a new subset of academics and professionals in the economics field.

Austrian students coming to Virginia Tech on exchange will have similar opportunities.

“We’re opening a door that’s usually locked to them,” said Moeltner. “Few European students have the means to come to the United States even for a short period of time unless they get a rare scholarship.”

And because the program does not involve extra fees apart from travel and incidental expenses, there are significant cost savings for both Austrian and U.S. students.

In addition to international conference access, expanded research and professional collaborations, and cultural experiences, the program also offers broadened curriculum opportunities that benefit students and faculty from both universities.

“It’s a great opportunity to fill gaps in our course lineup,” said Moeltner. “For example, if we offer a course only every other year, and a student needs that class when we aren’t offering it, they can go to Innsbruck, or if a professor is on sabbatical and not teaching that semester, a student can go to Innsbruck, and vice versa – it gives students more flexibility in putting together their program of study.”

As an academic and Innsbruck native, Moeltner has preexisting ties to the university and is personally invested in pushing the program forward to provide more opportunities for graduate students and help implement Virginia Tech’s international outreach mission.

The program allows students to visit the partner institution for up to one year, although there are opportunities for shorter exchanges as well. Students can apply for study exchanges, where they take classes at the partner institution, or research visits, where they conduct research and do not take classes. Innsbruck’s block-style doctoral classes, which last three to four weeks, will also allow Virginia Tech students to visit for a short, class-intensive period.

Virginia Tech students interested in the exchange must apply through the Virginia Tech Global Education Office by Sept. 15 for a spring semester- or year-long exchange and by Feb. 15 for a fall semester exchange.

The application must outline the student’s reason for wanting to participate in the exchange, how it fits into their program of study, the progress they have made toward completing their thesis or dissertation, a recommendation letter from their primary faculty advisor, and a curriculum vitae. Requirements for program acceptance include a minimum semester completion requirement and good academic standing, including a grade point average of 3.0 or above and good progress on research assignments.

-          Written by Jillian Broadwell