Tuesday, October 9, 2007

University of Alcala

The University of Alcala is located in Alcala de Henares, which is around thirty minutes outside of Madrid by train. The university itself is beautiful and has a history that stretches back centuries. Oddly, it was all but dead for much of the 20th century and was brought back to life mainly by the efforts of the people of Alcala de Henares who refused to give up on their dream of breathing new life into the school. Thank goodness they did. While some of the buildings are surprisingly modern, others have the same look, on the outside anyway, that they did in the 15th century. In some places the architects have melded brand new buildings onto older structures, but even they have allowed the older buildings to dominate. Most of their buildings, even the ones five hundred years old, are wireless or soon will be – the challenge of which our own IT folks could understand. The university has something around eighteen-thousand students, but has the feel of a more intimate college.The campus is full of beautiful old courtyards, often hidden behind five hundred year old facades. One administrative building has a fa├žade dating back to the time of Charles V. Once you go through the gate you enter the first of three linked courtyards, each one progressively older. In one of the courtyards there is an idyllic tree-covered corner that is simply referred to as the Philosopher’s Garden.

In a series of meetings that stretched over two days I met a number of faculty and administrators, including the Dean of Humanities, the Assistant Dean of Economics, the Director of International Relations, and the Chair of the Modern Languages department. All of this was organized by Carmen Flys Junquera who is a very big supporter of the GM program. Her parents are Spanish but she was raised in the states. She moved to Spain in the 1970’s and has been here ever since - her own experiences with two different cultures probably explains her fascination with the GM program. If she as good an ambassador for the GMs as she is for the university we’ll have no trouble succeeding here. Alcala is interested in embedding the Global Modules in several courses as an experiment for the upcoming spring semester, but they are already talking about signing a memorandum of understanding and expanding to more classes next year – maybe even taking the same approach that Champlain is doing and actually embed them in key courses. They also have an interesting bonus credit program where students can get one, two or three credits for taking on unique assignments, and Alcala is talking about using this approach for a one-credit course that would just be the Global Module itself. This might actually be a possible approach that Champlain could use as it explores ways to bring the GMs into the extracurricular realm. Carmen thinks that immigration would be a great GM topic because the Spanish (like a lot of European countries, and the US for that matter) are dealing with their own immigration issues.

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