Friday, November 10, 2017

In the Service of International Education and Diplomacy: EU Day at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

By Adalric Tuten, EUC Staff Member

Ambasador Lepik at the European Union Center
On October 20, 2017, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) hosted its annual European Union (EU) Day event. This event celebrates the distinguished role of UIUC’s European Union Center (EUC) in promoting transatlantic relations between the US and the EU and in fostering the university’s commitment to serving as one of America’s leading-edge institutions for the study of EU affairs.

The highlight of the celebration is the 'State of the EU Address” and it is the EUC’s tradition to invite the Ambassador of the country holding the presidency to deliver remarks. In honor of Estonia’s current Presidency of the Council of the EU, the EUC invited His Excellency Lauri Lepik, Ambassador of Estonia to the United States, to participate in a number of EU Day activities. These included a roundtable meeting with the EUC’s faculty, staff, and MA students, as well as a “State of the European Union” keynote address open to the public. Following his keynote, the EUC hosted a luncheon with Ambassador Lepik, giving UIUC faculty, students, and the public a chance to visit one-on-one with His Excellency.

Although Ambassador Lepik’s work demanded his return to Washington, DC, after lunch, EU Day festivities continued with a roundtable panel discussion on the subject of the EU’s sovereign debt crisis. UIUC’s Professor of Political Science and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dr. William Bernhard, moderated the insightful discussion about the economic, social, and political impacts of the EU’s sovereign debt crisis and its impacts since 2009. Panelists included, Dr. Hannah M. Alarian, University of Virginia, Dr. David L. Cleeton, Illinois State University, and Dr. Achim Hurrelmann, Carleton University.

Writing from the vantage point of a EUC insider present for all of the day’s activities, I was impressed by EU Day as one of UIUC’s signature international events open not only to the UIUC community but also the public, highlighting UIUC’s position as the state’s flagship university. For example, even for those residing in the DC area, it is difficult to have direct access to foreign embassy staff. Yet, this is what EU Day offered. Not only did EU MA students have a rare opportunity to meet with Ambassador Lepik to ask questions about Estonia, the EU, and EU-US relations, ranging from Estonia-Russia relations to the development of its digital economy, the public also had the chance to visit with His Excellency directly to learn about one of EU’s most technologically innovative member states . Similarly, EU Day provided the UIUC community and public with an engaging expert panel discussion on one of the world’s most significant economic crises in recent years. In sum, EU Day proved to be a success for both the EUC and UIUC, highlighting the university’s role as a regional and national leader in international studies.


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