The mission of the new Austrian Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation is to support and further Atlantic partnerships between Austrian and American universities. In 2000 the "Marshall Plan Chair for Austrian Studies" was endowed at UNO. This is a revolving chair and every year an Austrian scholar in the social or economic sciences is appointed to fill the chair and teach at UNO for two semesters.
List of Austrian Marshall Plan Chairs at UNO (2001-2007):
|2001||Thomas Albrich - University of Innsbruck/History|
|2001/2||Eric Frey - Der Standard, Vienna/Political Economy|
|2002/3||Peter Berger - University of Economics and Business Administration Vienna/History|
|2003/4||Andrea Grisold - University of Economics and Business Administration Vienna/Economics|
|2004/5||Thomas Fröschl - University of Vienna/Atlantic History|
|2006/6||Peter Gerlich - University of Vienna/Political Science (displaced to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities after Hurricane Katrina)|
|2006/7||Martin Heintel - University of Vienna/Geography - Regional Economic Development|
The next three MP Chairs at UNO (2006-2009) will be dedicated to "regional economic development." The rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will be used as a laboratory to study the rebuilding of an entire region after the worst natural disaster in American history. At the end of this three-year cycle, a major conference will be organized to analyze the results.
The MPA Foundation has financed a partnership between the University of Vienna (Professor Dieter Stiefel, coordinator) and the University of California at Berkeley (Professor Barry Eichengreen, coordinator) through a three-year cycle of conferences and student and faculty exchanges. A new three-year program is being launched this fall between the University of Innsbruck (Professor Gerhard Mangold, coordinator) and the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC (Professor Daniel Hamilton, coordinator). This program will concentrate on studying the new democracies in Eastern Europe such as the Ukraine and Georgia.
The unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Katrina deeply moved officials at the ERP-Fonds in Vienna. They decided to practice a quasi-"Marshall Plan in reverse" and donate one million dollars through the Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation to UNO and New Orleans as a gesture of goodwill from Austria for the reconstruction of the devastated city and university. The government of Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel and the Austrian Cabinet officially approved this major gift on February 16.
The money is earmarked for three projects. The lion's share of this money will be dedicated to the building of a "Marshall Plan Center for International Studies" at UNO. The university thus can continue and augment what UNO has done so well in the past - further international student exchange programs such as UNO's programs over more than 30 years with the University of Innsbruck; European and area studies can thereby also be increased at UNO. A second program is geared towards helping those New Orleans schools that are affiliated with UNO's College of Education. Some schools are educating underprivileged children from New Orleans. One elite high school will be able to start an exchange program with an Austrian high school. A third project is geared towards helping WWNO, the public radio station in New Orleans on the UNO campus, air more Austrian classical music in the Mozart anniversary year and develop cooperative ventures with Austrian national radio ORF. A sizable segment of New Orleanians will benefit from this through the "Mozart effect" and its proven soothing of the mind.
The one-million-dollar check was given to Chancellor Timothy Ryan of the University of New Orleans in a highly emotional ceremony on February 17 in the presence of the Austrian Ambassador Dr. Eva Nowotny. Mag. Wolfgang Stoiber and Dr. Eugen Stark from the ERP-Fonds, the executive directors of the Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation, handed over the check along with a highly symbolic gift - an empty flour sack. When Austrians were still hungry after the war, thousands of tons of flour were shipped to Austria in such 100-pound sacks, financed through Marshall aid. In the case of this sack, the milled flour was from New Orleans. The symbolism of uplifting people who are down could not have been more poignant - in 1948 - 52 Austrians, today Americans. The Austrian Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation's goals of strengthening Austrian-American ties through the promotion of trans-Atlantic university partnerships were strongly and visibly expressed in keeping with the old Marshall Plan motto: "Helping those that help themselves."
The author, Günter Bischof, is Director of CenterAustria and Chair of the History Department at the University of New Orleans.