10-Year Anniversary of the Center for Austrian Culture and Commerce at the University of New Orleans

bridges vol. 16, December 2007 / Institutions & Organizations

by Günter Bischof
CenterAustria at the University of New Orleans (UNO) celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a series of conferences and art/music events in the academic year 2007/08. CenterAustria was launched in the fall of 1997 to administer UNO's proliferating activities with its partner university - the Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck - and to increase contacts with other Austrian universities and institutions. It was also designed to promote Austrian culture and commerce in the US Gulf Coast region. CenterAustria replaced the Institute for the Comparative Study of Foreign Policy at UNO.

The Center's history in a nutshell

celebration.jpgCenter Austria staff and students reunited before the Christmas break

The University of New Orleans signed a partnership agreement with the Leopold-Franzens-Universität in Innsbruck in 1983. UNO had launched the very successful UNO Innsbruck International Summer School in 1976. This program will conduct its 34th session in the summer of 2008, bringing some 250 students and 25 faculty members from southern US universities to Austria. As a result of this highly successful summer school, UNO began offering graduate fellowships to Innsbruck students - reciprocated since the mid-1980s by Innsbruck stipends for UNO students.

In 1982 the Austrian Student Program (ASP) was started for Innsbruck students at UNO - a four-week introduction to the American university (a "Schnupperstudium"). This has experienced a hiatus since Hurricane Katrina due to a housing shortage.

Also in 1982, the two universities held their first annual symposium on comparative transatlantic topics, organized by the new Institute for the Comparative Study of Public Policy at UNO. This has led to a regular publication of the conference papers. Faculty exchanges were added in the 1980s. In 1992 the two universities began the joint annual publication of the series, Contemporary Austrian Studies. When the number of Innsbruck students studying at UNO grew by leaps and bounds, CenterAustria was opened to serve, among other functions, as a hub for Austrian students, easing their coming to and staying at UNO (housing, visas, advising, etc.).

In 1997 CenterAustria initiated an Academic Year Abroad (AYA) program for semester/yearlong study in Innsbruck, with students signing up from all over the United States.
CenterAustria was founded to administer all these activities and also to develop new programs. Most notably, in 1998 a conference was organized commemorating the "50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan in Austria" in cooperation with the "European Recovery Program-Fund" in Vienna. This exciting conference inspired the ERP-Fonds to provide seed money for the "Austrian Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation." The brand new Vienna-based Foundation then agreed to endow the Marshall Plan Chair for Austrian and European Studies at UNO in 2000. UNO will welcome the 9th Marshall Plan Chair for the academic year 2008/09 (click here for a list of all Marshall Plan Chairs to date).

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