Monday, November 11, 2013

European Union Center wins Jean Monnet Module

This blog was originally posted on the Daily Illini on November 7, 2013.

by Saher Khan

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The University’s European Union Center won the prestigious Jean Monnet Module grant on July 11, making it the only American university to do so. The grant period runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2016.

The EU Center, founded in 1998 and funded by the European Union, promotes the study of the EU and trans-Atlantic relations at the University. One of the ways the EU Center promotes this study is by designing courses available to undergraduate and graduate students.

“As an interdisciplinary center, we don’t have our own faculty but rather tap the expertise of faculty members from various departments on campus, and they are our affiliated faculty members,” said Matt Rosenstein, director of graduate studies at the EU Center and associate director of International Programs and Studies.

Four of these affiliated faculty members came together with Rosenstein to draft a proposal that won the Jean Monnet Module grant. The faculty members include Zsuzsa Gille of the sociology department, Carol Leff of the political science department, and David Cooper and George Gasyna of the Slavic languages and literature department.

The Jean Monnet Life Long Learning Programme is an initiative by the EU that awards grants to institutions of higher education with programs that educate students on the EU. These awards are given to universities within and outside of the EU.

“We specifically applied for the Module grant, which is a category that awards learning modules, or in other words, courses (and) classes that focus on EU studies,” Rosenstein said.

This is the second Jean Monnet grant the University has won. The first one was in 2011 for the proposal on the study of the Mediterranean region and its relationship with the EU. The proposal this year was “Eastern Europe and European Integration,” which focused on Eastern Europe and European tradition.

“The first year we applied we didn’t get it. Grant offices give you feedback about what was strong and weak about your proposal, so we came right back at them and won this one,” said Leff, professor of comparative politics at the University.

The proposal centered around a class called “The Other Europe Comes Home,” and it will be offered every spring semester starting in 2014 to educate students on Eastern Europe’s integration into the EU.
It is a team-taught class, meaning that all four professors who were involved with draftin
g the proposal will be co-teaching the course with a rotating lead professor each semester. This upcoming semester, Leff will start off as the lead instructor.

“The course is a team-taught course; it’s intentionally multi-disciplinary, so people involved are scholars in literature, culture, political scientists and sociologists,” Cooper said. “All of these different disciplines treat the issues covered in class in different ways and ask different questions.”
However, the course is not just a class. On top of the lecture series, the curriculum will include learning from webcasts, lecturers, outreach programs and guest speakers.

Rosenstein, Leff and Cooper hope that all students with an interest in Europe, political science and different cultures will take the course.
“In this day and age, (students are) going to need to able to work with people from different cultures,” Rosenstein said. “It’s an essential body of knowledge to have an understanding of other cultures and other countries of the world.”

Rosenstein said that students should be educated about the EU especially, as it is a part of the U.S. national agenda. It is the country’s major trading and security partner, as well as an international ally.

Saher can be reached at smkhan3@dailyillini.com.

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