La Trobe to receive international award

La Trobe University’s participation in the Buddhi Bangara Project (Nepal) as part of the Oral Health Program has been chosen by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York to receive a prestigious Heiskell Award Special Recognition for an outstanding initiative.

A Nepalese dental hygienist working in in a remote communityThe oral health program is part of the Buddhi Bangara Project run by La Trobe University senior lecturer, Ron Knevel. The program offers students the opportunity to participate in a two-week placement in Nepal.

During the placement, La Trobe University students and Nepalese dental hygiene students engage in oral health promotion activities in various settings such as the monastery, children’s rehabilitation centre, orphanages, Tibetan refugee camps and government schools.

Dr Buddhi Man Shrestha, who established the Kantipur School of Dentistry (KSD) in 1997, said that the program is mutually beneficial to students from both organisations.

‘This program enabled international students to interact closely with faculty members, which provided an excellent opportunity for learning and cultural exchange,’ said Dr Shrestha.

Dr Shrestha commended La Trobe University staff for the training they have provided to dental hygiene instructors/teachers at his school.

‘Ron Knevel trained the dental hygienists to become experienced teachers and improve their instrumentation techniques. He discussed successful ways to develop community programs, and trained the dental hygienists in several clinical applications. This has benefited KSD in producing skilled dental hygienist educators who now are providing quality education to our dental hygiene students,’ said Dr Shrestha.

The importance of the program

Dr Shrestha said the support of the dental hygienist curriculum development in Nepal has lead to the endorsement of the program by the International Federation of Dental Hygienists. This year the Dental Hygienist Association of Nepal - of which Mr Knevel is an honorary member - will become a member of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.

Since the introduction of the international elective placement to La Trobe’s Oral Health Science Program in 2010, the student participation rate has increased to 85%. Most students select Nepal but others opt for New York in the US, Presov in Slovakia, Stockholm in Sweden or Helsinki in Finland.

Regional students, international experiences

Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar said the placement of oral health students in Nepal plays a large role in enabling regional students to experience international study practicum.

‘Given the substantial growth in numbers, it is encouraging to see that students from our regional campuses are embracing the notion of becoming part of the broader global community and contributing to the advancement of developing nations,’ said Professor Dewar.

‘The program and the connections our students build with local Nepalese communities prepare them to be global citizens and understand the intricacies of cross cultural sensitivity and communication,’ added Professor Dewar.

Professor Dewar congratulated Mr Knevel on the award and acknowledged the support provided by La Trobe International.

‘Ron’s academic work, passion and commitment to offering extraordinary opportunities for oral health students and assistance to communities in developing countries is to be commended, as is the framework of support for Ron, the project and participating students provided by La Trobe International through our La Trobe Abroad program,’ said Professor Dewar.

IIE President and CEO Dr Allan E. Goodman aid the 2013 IIE Heiskell Awards recognise some of the best initiatives in internationalising higher education.

Recognising international excellence

‘This year’s winners have developed new approaches to extending more international opportunities to a broader segment of their student populations. We appreciate the winners’ commitment to expanding access to study abroad and building partnerships, and we are pleased to recommend these programs as models for other campuses to learn from as they plot their own internationalisation strategies,’ said Dr Goodman.

The awards will be presented in New York 21 - 22 March 2013 at the IIE Best Practices Conference where award winners will have an opportunity to present about their programs and network with other winners fellow student mobility champions.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) created the Andrew Heiskell awards in 2001 to promote and honour the most outstanding initiatives that are being conducted in international higher education by IIENetwork member universities and colleges. By recognizing excellence and innovation, the institute hopes to support IIENetwork members in their endeavours and to promote a comprehensive range of efforts to make campuses more international.


Media enquiries
Zerin Knight
T: (03) 5444 7375 M: 0428 463 161 E: