Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources has joined with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in signing a memorandum of understanding with the Galway–Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT). The agreement will bring American students to GMIT's Letterfrack, Ireland, campus to study furniture and wood products design and manufacturing.

GMIT is internationally known for its furniture program, based at Letterfrack, a small village on Ireland’s west coast.

Paul Winistorfer, dean of the College of Natural Resources, and Robert Bush, professor in the college’s Department of Wood Science and Forest Products, traveled to GMIT’s main campus in Galway, Ireland, to formally sign the educational agreement. Beginning in September, the agreement will facilitate the exchange of Irish and American students and staff among the three institutions and will include the development of new distance learning modes for the delivery of joint modules, programs, and future collaboration on research projects in marine science, natural resources, and the built environment.

The College of Natural Resources is currently in collaboration with the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) in South Boston to bring wood design and manufacturing learning to southern Virginia by developing pathways for students who earn two-year degrees to continue their learning at Virginia Tech. SVHEC and GMIT each offer non-traditional educational models that integrate real-world, project-based learning with creativity and collaboration.

“This partnership has synergistic potential for all three of the institutions, in addition to providing students with international study experiences,” said Winistorfer.

Patrick Tobin, GMIT lecturer and program coordinator, will be on the Virginia Tech Blacksburg campus to present “The integration of design into business and science curricula” at the Fralin Biotechnical Center Auditorium on Wednesday, April 28 at 2:30 p.m. Tobin, who has been involved in technical, management, consulting, and training work with the furniture and wood products industry for 20 years, will speak about his experiences and the novel approach to learning at GMIT. Tobin has been with GMIT since 1996. Since that time, enrollment in the furniture and wood products program has grown from 50 to 260 students.

Tobin and his colleagues, Dermot O’Donovan and Sean Treacy, will be on campus to explore other potential collaborations with Virginia Tech programs. Their U.S. trip will also include a visit to the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.

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