10-Year Anniversary of the Center for Austrian Culture and Commerce at the University of New Orleans

bridges vol. 16, December 2007 / Institutions & Organizations

by Günter Bischof
CenterAustria at the University of New Orleans (UNO) celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a series of conferences and art/music events in the academic year 2007/08. CenterAustria was launched in the fall of 1997 to administer UNO's proliferating activities with its partner university - the Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck - and to increase contacts with other Austrian universities and institutions. It was also designed to promote Austrian culture and commerce in the US Gulf Coast region. CenterAustria replaced the Institute for the Comparative Study of Foreign Policy at UNO.

The Center's history in a nutshell

Center Austria staff and students reunited before the Christmas break

The University of New Orleans signed a partnership agreement with the Leopold-Franzens-Universität in Innsbruck in 1983. UNO had launched the very successful UNO Innsbruck International Summer School in 1976. This program will conduct its 34th session in the summer of 2008, bringing some 250 students and 25 faculty members from southern US universities to Austria. As a result of this highly successful summer school, UNO began offering graduate fellowships to Innsbruck students - reciprocated since the mid-1980s by Innsbruck stipends for UNO students.

In 1982 the Austrian Student Program (ASP) was started for Innsbruck students at UNO - a four-week introduction to the American university (a "Schnupperstudium"). This has experienced a hiatus since Hurricane Katrina due to a housing shortage.

Also in 1982, the two universities held their first annual symposium on comparative transatlantic topics, organized by the new Institute for the Comparative Study of Public Policy at UNO. This has led to a regular publication of the conference papers. Faculty exchanges were added in the 1980s. In 1992 the two universities began the joint annual publication of the series, Contemporary Austrian Studies. When the number of Innsbruck students studying at UNO grew by leaps and bounds, CenterAustria was opened to serve, among other functions, as a hub for Austrian students, easing their coming to and staying at UNO (housing, visas, advising, etc.).

In 1997 CenterAustria initiated an Academic Year Abroad (AYA) program for semester/yearlong study in Innsbruck, with students signing up from all over the United States.
CenterAustria was founded to administer all these activities and also to develop new programs. Most notably, in 1998 a conference was organized commemorating the "50th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan in Austria" in cooperation with the "European Recovery Program-Fund" in Vienna. This exciting conference inspired the ERP-Fonds to provide seed money for the "Austrian Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation." The brand new Vienna-based Foundation then agreed to endow the Marshall Plan Chair for Austrian and European Studies at UNO in 2000. UNO will welcome the 9th Marshall Plan Chair for the academic year 2008/09 (click here for a list of all Marshall Plan Chairs to date).

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick – all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} Additionally, in 2002 the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research agreed to fund an annual scholarship for an Austrian doctoral student at UNO. The Austrian Fulbright Commission has sent an annual language teaching assistant in German to UNO since the fall of 1998.

The cities of New Orleans and Innsbruck signed a sister city agreement in 1995, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the UNO Innsbruck International Summer School. In the fall of 2000 an Arts Exchange program was established between the City of Innsbruck and UNO. Tyrolese artists have displayed their art every fall at the UNO Fine Arts Gallery and UNO student artists exhibit their work every summer at the City of Innsbruck's Andechs Gallerie. Short artist-in-residence stays have been added to familiarize visiting artists with the artistic communities in both cities. The UNO Department of Fine Arts partners with CenterAustria in organizing these arts exchanges.

Since 2000 three "Satchmo Meets Amadeus" programs have been staged with the University of Salzburg and the Mozarteum Salzburg. Academic conferences, coupled with concert performances, were organized to better contextualize these famous "musical cities" and their prodigal sons with global star power.

Life after Katrina

Since the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and UNO measure time before and after Katrina. The most devastating disaster in American history has slowed down some of the Center's programs - for example the fall 2005 symposium had to be cancelled. Immediately after the storm, 40 of 44 Austrian students at UNO found new host institutions in the United States to continue their year of study. The University of Minnesota was particularly generous in accepting two Innsbruck business students and provided a home for the 2005/06 Marshall Plan Chair. The February Austrian Student Program was cancelled twice since Katrina due to an acute housing shortage in New Orleans but will resume in February 2008 with 24 students coming to New Orleans. The University and City of Innsbruck communities were very generous in collecting private donations to help UNO faculty and staff who had lost their homes in the flooding after the storm. They also funded a dozen UNO students to study for a semester in Innsbruck. The University of Graz also offered eight free semesters to UNO "Katrina students." The ERP-Fonds of Vienna made a $1 million donation to UNO [see bridges article] for student exchanges and for building an International Studies Center. Altogether, Austrian friends and partners extended some $1.15 million dollars of donations in various forms to the University of New Orleans - remarkable acts of Austrian generosity for UNO's recovery!

Papers & Publications by CenterAustria

Regular volumes of the annual symposium papers represented the first effort of scholarly publications within the partnership agreement. In 1992 Anton Pelinka, a political scientist at the University of Innsbruck, and Günter Bischof, a historian at UNO, started Contemporary Austrian Studies (CAS) as an annual publication published by Transaction of New Brunswick, New Jersey. Volumes are dedicated to a specific theme chosen annually, with non-topical essays, forums, historiography, roundtables, review essays, book reviews, and an annual review of Austrian politics complementing each volume. To date, 15 volumes have been published. With Anton Pelinka's retirement in Innsbruck, Fritz Plasser, a fellow political scientist, took over the Innsbruck editorship. Vol. XVI on "The Changing Austrian Voter" will be published in early 2008; "Austria(ns) in World War II" is currently in the making, and the "Schüssel Era in Austria" is in the planning stages. Contemporary Austrian Studies is an interdisciplinary social studies journal that covers Austria since 1918 and is designed to complement the older Austrian History Yearbook, which concentrated more on Habsburg history.

In 2002 the series Studies in Austrian and Central European History and Culture was initiated with Transaction Publishers.

In 2006 the new series TRANSATLANTICA was launched with the StudienVerlag in Innsbruck.

A CenterAustria Newsletter has been published once a semester. Since 2006 it has been posted electronically on the CenterAustria home page.

CenterAustria: a best practice model for living "Citizen Diplomacy"

Since its inception in 1976, some 9,000 young Americans have attended the UNO Innsbruck International Summer School in Innsbruck (and since 1990, up to 50 Innsbruck students each year also attend Summer School classes free of charge). Over 300 Austrian students have studied at UNO for a year, many of them finishing degrees (MAs, MBAs, MSs, and a couple of PhDs). Almost 1,000 Austrian students have attended the ASP in February. About 150 American students have participated in the AYA program in Innsbruck. To date twelve "transatlantic" marriages have resulted from these exchanges, producing fifteen children. Some three dozen faculty members have profited from faculty exchanges, and scores of UNO faculty have taught in the Innsbruck Summer School (the record holder taught 18 times).

There have been numerous mutual visits by university and city officials as part of the partnership agreements. Few transatlantic university partnerships maintain a denser web of contacts than the Innsbruck-New Orleans one. The net benefits of such active and intense "citizen diplomacy" between Austria and the US are incalculable.

Happy 10th Birthday, CenterAustria!

Center Austria: 10 years at the University of New Orleans

CenterAustria is celebrating its 10-year anniversary throughout the 2007/08 academic year. In early September a reception at the Claudiana in Innsbruck, on the occasion of the joint conference with the Canada Center of the University of Innsbruck on "Acadians and Cajuns: The Politics and Culture of French Minorities in North America," opened the festivities with our Innsbruck partners.

In February 2008, Erhard Busek, former vice chancellor of Austria and current coordinator of the Stability Pact in the Balkans, will deliver a lecture on "Nation Building in the Balkans in the 21st Century." Attendees will include Ambassador Eva Nowotny and Andreas Stadler, the new director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, as well as Karlheinz Töchterle, the new Rektor of the University of Innsbruck, as well as Franz Mathis, the coordinator of UNO activities in Innsbruck, and Fritz Plasser, coeditor of CAS.

In late February 2008, a workshop on "Slavery and Abolition" will be conducted and March 2008 will mark the visit of the Innsbruck Ensemble für Modern Musik for concerts and workshops. In early April a joint conference on "The Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968" is being held in New Orleans in cooperation with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Kriegsfolgen-Forschung (Institute for Research on the Consequences of War) in Graz and the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at UNO.

In mid-May in Vienna, a joint symposium is being organized in cooperation with the Austrian Marshall Plan Anniversary Foundation and the Schumpeter Society of Vienna on "Representations of the Marshall Plan in the Media."

It will be an intense year of academic conversations, art and music programs, and good fellowship with CenterAustria's numerous Austrian friends and institutional partners. What better way to celebrate almost 35 years of UNO's contacts with Austria and ten years of CenterAustria than by continuing to intensify our transatlantic networks and friendships?


The above article was written and researched by Günter Bischof with the help of Gertraud Griessner and Sandra Scherl (December 2007).

Günter Bischof is the chair and Marshall Plan Professor of Austrian and European Studies and director of CenterAustria at UNO.

For a previous illustrated brochure on the partnership, see University of New Orleans/University of Innsbruck, Friends and Partners in Transatlantic Education 1976-2003 (Innsbruck 2003). CenterAustria information is regularly updated on our home page www.centeraustria.org.