European Commission grant sought

European Commission grant sought

CHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois will send more graduate students abroad for research, and it will work closer with European universities if it receives a new grant from the European Commission.

The UI is the site of a European Union Center, one of 15 in the country, that promotes the study of the European Union and its relations with the U.S. through courses, research and public outreach. Officials are waiting to hear if their center has been named an EU Center of Excellence, which means it could receive almost $700,000 in support from the European Commission over the next nine years.

The funding also means the center would be able to pay for graduate students to travel abroad for research, something it has not done since another grant expired last year.

"Putting people on the ground so they can do research in Europe is so key to the success of training the next generation of educators and researchers, experts on the EU and trans-Atlantic relations," said Kieran Donaghy, the center's director.

As a Center of Excellence, the UI's European Union Center would get 100,000 euros per year, or $77,519 at the current exchange rate. The UI's center would use the money to look at issues, including security, trade, bioterrorism, pension issues, new transportation systems and the transformation of industrial economies. Donaghy said the aim is to look at structural problems related to globalization.

"One of the most attractive things about EU studies is it tends to be issue driven. People look at a problem, not a discipline," Donaghy said.

One project involves a Milan lecture by Jack Knott, the director of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the UI, on the crisis in pension programs in Europe. The EU Center here would record his lectures, provide them to other EU Centers in the U.S. and sponsor a workshop on the issue.

Donaghy said the grant from the European Commission would also help the center develop partnerships with European universities. It is already working with a university in Vienna, Austria, to study the changing nature of trans-Atlantic trade.

"We want to build relationships that will strike down deep roots and allow us to continue these conversations over time," he said.

Donaghy said the proposal to become a Center of Excellence emphasized the strengths of the UI and its partnerships with other European Union institutions. He said the UI's European Union Center has a broad range of disciplines associated with it – including agriculture, veterinary medicine, engineering, business, law and journalism – and a strong emphasis on the UI's professional schools.

The European Union Center works with the UI's Center for International Business and Research on a seminar on doing business in the EU, and in placing students in internships in Europe.

It has been active on the issue of genetically modified foods, and last year it co-hosted a conference at the law school looking at how intellectual property rights are implicated in the issue.

The center was named a National Resource Center by the U.S. Department of Education last year. As such, it receives money for teacher training and curriculum development in high schools, for students to study a foreign language and for promoting research in international business.

Another Department of Education grant supports the UI's participation in a Program in Good Governance, in which eight U.S. and European universities provide courses areas such as social policy, governance and business, environmental policy and public finance, and participate in a student exchange.

The European Union Center provides an interdisciplinary graduate seminar that gives students a general overview of the EU and its history, then focuses on current EU issues.

The center is working to establish an interdisciplinary master's program in European Union studies – the first such program in the United States. Donaghy said the program would supplement professional degrees in areas such as law or applied science, provide expertise for high school and university teachers, and help train those with an interest in diplomatic service.

The UI center is strong in its public outreach, said Associate Director Janelle Weatherford. The center provides materials for teachers to use in the classroom, and it is hosting a curriculum development workshop in July.

It brings European leaders to campus for EU Day each spring, and it has an exhibit at the Illinois State Fair with brochures, maps, games, teaching materials and even a cookbook with recipes from each country in the European Union.

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