Christiansen professorship is internationally focused

From The Daily Iowan

The University of Iowa College of Dentistry has created a new professorship that will focus on increasing the college’s connection with the international community.

While various faculty positions with international priority do exist at the UI, officials said this position is the first on campus to work exclusively on the development of international components.

Dan Caplan
Dan Caplan

Dan Caplan, the head of the UI Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, will fill the Christiansen Professorship. His job for the next five years will consist of creating and overseeing international projects such as study abroad, research collaboration, and visiting scholar programs.

“I don’t just want to send students to go somewhere, pull some teeth, and come back,” Caplan said. “I want to focus on establishing programs with continuity.”

The Richard L. and Nancy M. Christiansen Professorship in International Programs in Oral Health Education and Research was established through an endowment of approximately $50,000 from the Christiansens, who intend for the program to develop the College of Dentistry’s global opportunities, according to the college’s website.

Richard Christiansen hails from Denison, Iowa, and is a graduate of the UI dental program.

He became an orthodontist and eventually assumed the position of dean of the University of Michigan’s dental school.

“[Christiansen] never forgot his Iowa roots,” said David Johnsen, the dean of the UI dental school.

Christiansen’s love of Iowa, in conjunction with an interest in international health issues, led to the monetary gift responsible for the professorship.

Caplan said he hopes programs created through the professorship, particularly international research projects and educational initiatives, will result in tangible publications.

Irina Bassis, a public-relations specialist at the UI dental school, said the programs will be beneficial in creating opportunities for global connections and communication for faculty, students, and the program in general.

She said the formation of this new position is the dental school’s response to a growing trend on campus and at colleges across the United States.

“We are experiencing a growing number of international students across all disciplines, from all over the world,” Bassis said.

With the influx of international students, it is important that education systems keep up, said Downing Thomas, the UI associate provost for International Programs.

“We’re seeing a number of colleges increase investment in international teaching, scholarship and outreach,” he said. “We need to prepare students for a world where they will no longer be locally based.”

Thomas said he suspects Caplan’s position is the first of many internationally minded professorships to come.

“People are realizing that we’re embedded in a global economy, and the context is increasingly international,” Thomas said.

Johnsen said he thinks all involved with the Christiansen Professorship are eager to get to work.

“[The dental school] wants to be an invaluable resource to the university that influences the direction of dentistry,” Johnsen said. “Having the first professor for international progress is helping us be just that.”

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