For UofL’s International Center, 2019 is shaping up to be something quite special as it marks its 70th anniversary milestone. The center began in 1949 downtown during a time when the United States’ role in global security and economic and cultural affairs were escalating, post World War II.
According to “University of Louisville Belknap Campus,” written by Tom Owen and Sherri Pawson, when the center relocated to the Belknap Campus, it began facilitating international exchanges, promoted foreign trade, welcomed visiting scholars and dignitaries from around the world, and helped the growing student population feel at home.
In 1970, with financial support from the community, the International Center built its current location behind the Brandeis School of Law. In 1981, it was named for Romanian immigrant George Brodschi, the center’s first executive director, who served from 1949 to 1978.
Now, the center is tasked with multiple obligations as it is split into two offices: the Office of Study Abroad and International Travel, and the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). The Office of Study Abroad and International Travel sends students abroad to study, research, and participate in internships and community engagement. This office also provides advice on travel regulations and host country requirements, assists with enrollment processes, collaborates with university departments on international opportunities, processes transcripts, and collects faculty/staff international travel documentation and more.
The Office of International Students and Scholar Services receives students, scholars and faculty from more than 100 countries. They currently process immigration documents and provide support for over 1,000 students and scholars each year.
As the center marks this milestone, however, Thomas Beard, interim director of International Student and Scholar Services, said what he is most proud of are the students who have been served through the center.
“Many of these students go on to be future leaders within their communities and that starts within this office,” he said. “You cannot quantify the global experiences that this center provides and I believe that these experiences have translated into better leaders, scholars and engaged faculty, staff and students toward their local, national and global communities. Opening up this global perspective to the UofL campus has been the center’s biggest impact.”
Virginia Hosono, director of Study Abroad and International Travel, explains that study abroad not only allows students to see the world and experience different educational systems, but it also affords students the opportunity to use their critical and creative thinking skills while immersed in other cultures. Study Abroad further benefits students’ career opportunities by providing more life experiences and personal connections. Indeed, students who study abroad are two times more likely to find employment within 12 months of graduation. One goal for the Office of Study Abroad is to continue to work closely with other departments on campus to make international experiences an integral part of the curriculum.
Through all of its work, the center’s core objective is straightforward – to improve the world through education, research, outreach and engagement.
The center has hit a number of milestones throughout its 70 years, including:
- George Brodschi founded the center in 1949 with a vision of having a place where international people, like himself, could call their own.
- The Board of Trustees appointed Brodschi as the director that same year. At the time, his appointment was for a one-year trial period. The center had two international students – from Peru and Bolivia.
- In 1950, the American International Relations Club was created to promote cultural awareness among students on campus.
- From 1959 to 1960, Dr. Brodschi’s long-planned project – a separate building for the International Center – was realized with funds from friends of the IC, prominent builder Maria Pantoja and architect Arthur Tafel. The building was completed in 1970.
- In 1980, after the building was remodeled into two parts – the International Student and Scholar Services on the top floor and the Office of Study Abroad on the first floor.
- In 1992, the International Center was at risk of being eliminated due to budget cuts, but because of student protests and an outpouring of support from other universities and businesses, the proposal was dismissed.
- In 2018, Kimber Guinn, a study abroad adviser, went to Romania for a year to teach English through a Fulbright Award.
For Beard, the biggest milestone remains the actual creation of the center.
“Having a center dedicated to global perspectives is a pretty big milestone and especially in 1949,” he said.
Since 1994, the ISSS office has had approximately 14,648 students come through its doors – an average of more than 90 countries represented on campus each year. And, the number of students who participated in international activities has increased by 200 percent since 2005/06.
“Seventy years is a big milestone and I hope we keep growing as we progress for the next several years,” Beard said.
The center’s goals for the next several years are to simply make “global” a part of UofL’s identity and to find ways in which to bring international and education-abroad students’ voices to the UofL community.
“The center is an integral part of the mission and vision at UofL,” Beard said. “UofL still has much progress to make if we hope to fulfill our mission of inclusiveness. Local and global cannot be exclusive of one another if we are to be ubiquitously recognized as a great place to learn, work and invest because we celebrate diversity, foster equity and strive for inclusion.”
The International Center plans a formal celebration to mark its 70th anniversary in the fall. More information will be available soon.