Honoring a hallmark of study abroad and expanding IU’s European foothold

Hola, bonjour, and welcome to the IU Goes to Spain and France 2017 blog!

As members of an Indiana University delegation set the stage for what promises to be an exciting and productive trip to two of Europe’s most dynamic and historically important countries, our university is in the closing stages of another successful commencement season. After this weekend, IU will have graduated a new record of more than 21,000 students who represent one of the most academically accomplished classes in IU’s nearly 200-year history and — we are extremely proud to say — one of its most globally literate and engaged.

About a third of IU Bloomington’s class of 2017 had participated in an overseas study experience before graduating last weekend, and the campus currently ranks in the top 10 out of over 1,200 U.S. universities in the number of students who study abroad. These remarkable figures reflect IU’s continuing strategic emphasis on ensuring its graduates leave the university with the skills and experience they need to thrive in today’s increasingly interconnected global marketplace. It also highlights just how far globally-focused universities like IU have come in advancing study and service abroad as essential components of contemporary higher education.

All of this is a far cry from 50 years ago, when study abroad was far less prevalent an activity and certainly not expected by our students.

Which brings us to Madrid, the first stop on our trip, which is being organized by IU’s Office of the Vice President for International Affairs. In 1965-66, IU, in partnership with its friendly in-state rival Purdue University, had the foresight to initiate what has become, over the last half century, one of the major hallmarks of IU overseas study, the Madrid Program. Originally designed for advanced students of Spanish, the program — also commonly known as the WIP program (named for IU, Purdue and the University of Wisconsin, which joined the partnership in 1970) — has enabled almost 3,000 students to study in Spain’s capital and largest city. For the last two decades, IU has managed the WIP consortium and for 50 years has participated in the larger consortium of U.S. universities, known at the Universidades Reunidas, that sends students through the program. The program is based at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain’s most prestigious university and one of the oldest universities in the world, dating back to the late 13th century.

Almost 3,000 students, including these students from the 1980-81 class, have participated in the Madrid (or WIP) Program, which IU co-founded.

Next week in Madrid, IU President Michael A. McRobbie and his fellow delegation members will join students, staff and alumni in celebrating the golden anniversary of this groundbreaking program, which has played an integral part in IU’s effort to increase the number of its students studying abroad and heighten its overall international engagement.

The anniversary celebration is the centerpiece of IU’s 10-day trip to Spain and also to France, which will begin on Monday, May 15.

While in France, members of the delegation will meet up with IU students studying abroad as part of the Aix-en-Provence Program. As part of the program, which IU shares with the University of Wisconsin, IU students have the opportunity to learn about French language, civilization, culture, history and social science alongside French and international students at Aix-Marseille Université, France’s largest university with around 70,000 students. The university was founded in the early 15th century.

As with past official IU international trips, IU delegation members will use their time abroad to strengthen connections with several of the world’s top universities, such as the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Université Paris-Sorbonne and Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, as well as with government, business and cultural leaders. They will seek to enhance IU’s engagement in Europe through the university’s ever-expanding Global Gateway Network, including the IU Europe Gateway office in Berlin. And they will renew ties with IU’s many alumni living and working overseas and who, as our previous trips have proven, truly are the university’s greatest global ambassadors.

As for me personally, I’ll have the pleasure of serving as your eyes and ears to IU’s time in Spain and France. I’ll share with you first-hand, real-time reaction to the delegation’s daily activities and adventures, as well as some history surrounding IU’s longstanding engagement in Europe and insights into the university’s continuing work to elevate its profile in the most strategically important regions of the world.

I hope you will follow along with the blog and check in regularly as I share news, photos and updates, and please feel free to reach out to me directly with questions at rpiurek@iu.edu.

Thanks for joining me, and more soon from Spain!

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