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A New Cornucopia of Opportunities for European Studies

By Alexander Bevilacqua and Sophie Gonick, ALEXANDER BEVILACQUA AND SOPHIE L. GONICKs

For all the talk of student-faculty interaction at Harvard, those exchanges are often hard to come by. Students in fields such as government or economics rarely enjoy meaningful exchanges with their professors, or, if they do, have to be combatively assertive in securing the opportunity. And forget about going outside the department: For those not in a special concentration such as social studies or history and literature, interdisciplinary or even integrative approaches to the focus of our academic inquiry are often all too rare. The study of Europe is particularly hard-hit by both of these problems. European issues—philosophy and art, history and current politics—are obvious candidates for an interdisciplinary approach, yet so far the College has only accidentally offered this opportunity to students desiring it. Finally, however, undergraduate Europhiles have a new opportunity to pursue their studies and to interact with Harvard academics working in European fields. Through new initiatives targeted at undergraduates, such as a newly-created undergraduate advisory board and improved grant systems for European research projects, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies (CES) is seeking to broaden its involvement with the undergraduate community.

Inhabiting an Italianate villa nestled between William James Hall and the biology labs, the CES has long been a valuable and important resource at Harvard. Under its roof are hosted literature, history, government and economics scholars, as well as year-long fellows, who together make valuable contributions to the field of European studies. Recent guests at the CES have included such figures as Ignacio Arias, the Spanish ambassador to the United Nations; Niall Fergusson, a professor of history at New York University who will join Harvard’s faculty in July; and Lionel Jospin, former prime minister of France. Scholars from all over Europe come to the Center on fellowships that allow them to use Harvard’s vast resources and partake in the vitality of the University’s intellectual environment. Adolphus Busch Hall houses an interdisciplinary community of Harvard’s Europeanists. Its lunches, study groups and conferences provide an opportunity for ideas to permeate beyond the artificial boundaries of academic disciplines.

This bounty, however, has so far been reserved for the graduate and post-graduate community, attracting a strong class of Ph.D. students in European studies each year and providing sizable grants for graduate research. Although officially the doors of the CES are open to all members of the Harvard community, it is rare for an enterprising undergraduate who enters 27 Kirkland St. Those disoriented College students who wish to study European issues from art history to contemporary geopolitics are often unaware that the Center exists. There is no community through which students in different concentrations but with similar interests can connect with each other. Rather, each stays within her or his own department, studying with the few faculty members there who deal with European economics, political science or history, largely unaware of the opportunities offered by CES, which sits just across the street from Annenberg Hall.

This academic year, however, the directors of CES have decided to harness the undergraduate potential. They have formed an undergraduate advisory board from students interested in Europe who study English, social studies, history, literature, Slavic studies, government and economics. Through the advisory board, CES hopes to inform the college about its activities and to attract more undergraduates to participate in its work.

Internship opportunities in politics, business and the social sector abound through other Harvard research centers for students wishing to work in the United States or even Latin America. Yet for summer work in Europe, undergraduates have mostly had to rely on their own networking abilities—asking friends of friends, talking to professors or boldly contacting organizations themselves. As part of the new initiative, the undergraduate advisory board is seeking to establish an internship network and to grant funding for students to pursue work on the continent. The first CES career panel is slated for April 19, to offer a glimpse of life after Harvard and the variety of opportunities in the European field.

European studies is growing in importance and significance. The European Union (EU), now 25 members strong, presents a new world force that is increasing its presence in global politics. Despite controversies about constitution and unity, and though it still lacks consensus on common foreign and defense policy, Europe has in the past 50 years united itself in a way that is historically unprecedented, rejecting its past imperialist and military identity and rallying around its egalitarian tradition. With a unity founded on such democratic principles, an economy as strong as that of the United States and a multicultural population of 450 million, the EU is an exciting and vital object of study at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Harvard students finally have a wonderful opportunity to examine European issues in a more concerted way, to connect with scholars and politicians, diplomats and businesspeople. In occasion of the fifth year of the Euro currency, Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, and University President Lawrence H. Summers will be debating the merits and demerits of the European Monetary Union in the Yenching Auditorium on Thursday, March 25 at 4 p.m. You’re invited to this and other events. Please join us in making the CES the hub of new ways of thinking about European studies at Harvard. There never was a better time—on the other side of the Atlantic or in Cambridge, Mass.

Alexander Bevilacqua ’07, a Crimson editor lives in Canaday Hall. Sophie L. Gonick ’05. a Crimson editor, is a history concentrator in Winthrop House. They are members of the undergraduate advisory board of the Center for European Studies.

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