March 30, 1998
Volume 50, No. 26
Long-anticipated Emory-Siena exchange off the ground
After several years of discussion and negotiations, an agreement of academic and scientific cooperation has been signed between Emory and the Universita' degli Studi di Siena. To achieve the goals of this cooperation, the two universities will promote teaching and/or research activities and professional development which benefit faculty, graduate and undergraduate students and professional staff of all disciplines. Besides reciprocally hosting faculty and students, this agreement also calls for development of collaborative research and teaching methods via the Internet, the organization of symposia, conferences, short courses, and continuing education programs.
In an unusual departure, the French and Italian department provided the funding for this initial exchange, even though it is a Universitywide program. "I knew we just needed to jump," said Judy Raggi-Moore, senior lecturer in French and Italian and director of the Italian Studies program. "Emory had a signed contract, but still nothing was happening, so I decided to get the ball rolling." The department provided the program's teaching assistant budget for this semester, and graduate chemistry student Claudia Pifferi fills that role, although it's not a prerequisite for future candidates. Raggi-Moore credits Dahlia Judovitz, chair of the French and Italian department, with being a key to success through her flexibility: "It was a great leap of faith on her part. I knew it would work, and she trusted me."
A number of other departments played a role in forging the exchange. Luigi Marzilli, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry, has been doing joint research with a colleague at Siena for 15 years, to whom he introduced Raggi-Moore. "Siena is approached all the time, so it was a big help to have an internal source propose Emory's offer," he explained.
Ildi Flannery in the Office of International Affairs got the Center for International Programs Abroad (CIPA) aboard to help bridge some of the divisions within Emory. Raggi-Moore gave much credit to CIPA Director Howard Rollins. "He is fantastic. He pulled together the strings," she said. Rollins continues to work toward "normalizing" the exchange by finding funding and cooperation. The paperwork and tax implications of a student exchange tied to a teaching position were problematic, but organizers expect the tuition surplus obtained when Emory students participate in the program will provide much of the funding in the future.
Siena held a competition to select the student coming to Emory. Although Raggi-Moore was unable to interview the candidates, Pifferi previously had participated in Emory's Italian summer program and was ideal, she said. Marzilli could guarantee her access to chemistry labs and participation in the department, which was not necessarily the case elsewhere in the graduate school. "At the time Claudia was being selected, the exchange was still viewed by many departments [as belonging to] the French and Italian department, and I couldn't guarantee all other graduate programs would accommodate her," Raggi-Moore explained.
Despite the slow decision-making process on the Italian side, the decentralized nature of Emory provided most of the obstacles. "In Italy the university system is nationalized, so an exchange program has an impact systemwide, not just at the individual university," Raggi-Moore said. "Naturally agreements are entered into carefully. On the other hand, once the president of the university makes the announcement, it is done. Here you have to talk to each department separately many, many times."
For Marzilli, the program brings to fruition his desire to bridge science and culture. "I'm interested in conveying to students the cultural advantages of being a science major," he said. "The opportunities for international experience through research affiliations are tremendous." Both Marzilli and Raggi-Moore also hope Emory faculty will take advantage of the exchange opportunity. Marzilli has been to Europe more than 25 times and has taught and done research in Japan, Mexico and St. Andrews, Scotland.
Culturally Siena is an excellent choice for Emory as well. While not as world-renowned as the universities in Rome, Florence or Milan, it has an excellent reputation and offers an environment focused on student/teacher relationships in a rich cultural setting. Because of its many European ties, Siena is defining itself by the attention paid to the students, a fairly new concept in the Italian system. The school is slowly conforming more to the European model by starting to offer some semester courses in addition to its traditional yearlong courses.
While Siena certainly did not "need" Emory, the fact that the exchange includes faculty makes for a win-win situation. It reduces pressure for Siena to fund faculty trips abroad out of budgets already significantly stretched by a stagnant economy, and with increasingly poor prospects for jobs in Italian academia, exchange opportunities are good for scholars who might end up going abroad to work anyway.