University celebrates 50th anniversary of preparing global citizens in Austria, Spain

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BGSU President Rodney Rogers and Salzburg University Professor Heinrich Schmidinger following the signing of the agreement.

For more than 50 years, Bowling Green State University has been preparing students to be global citizens through innovative and immersive education abroad programs.

The Academic Year Abroad (AYA) program in Salzburg, Austria recently celebrated its golden anniversary with a ceremonial signing of the agreement between BGSU and the University of Salzburg, and a weekend of activities for alumni and current and past faculty of the program and their families.

BGSU President Rodney Rogers and Dr. Marcia Salazar-Valentine, executive director of BGSU’s International Programs and Partnerships, participated in the event and connected with more than 60 alumni of the program, who represented classes from 1970 to 2015.

As part of the celebration, Rogers and University of Salzburg Professor Heinrich Schmidinger renewed the agreement between the two universities to continue the exchange program.

"That so many of our alumni returned to help celebrate our 50-year anniversary with Salzburg University demonstrates what a life-changing experience study abroad offers," Rogers said. "It's an outstanding partnership that has helped so many students gain a global perspective."

The beginnings of the program date to the 1960s when Hedwig Fleischhacker and Helmut Pellischeck-Wilsdorf spent time in Bowling Green. The joint year-long study exchange between BGSU and University of Salzburg was started during the 1968-69 school year by Pellischeck-Wilsdorf.

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BGSU German faculty members Drs. Kristie Foell and Christina Guenther speak during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Academic Year Abroad program in Salzburg.

Over the years, the partnership has been strengthened not only by the many students who have taken part from both sides of the Atlantic and the local adjunct faculty members, but also the directors from BGSU who are both instructors and academic advisers, providing intensive mentoring to students before they leave for Salzburg and during their education-abroad experience.

Dr. Margy Gerber and Dr. Edgar Landgraf, past directors for the program, and Dr. Kristie Foell, who most recently was director during the 2017-18 school year, were the primary planners for the 50th festivities. Dr. Geoff Howes organized special readings by three former Max Kade Writers-in-Residence, which was one of the most significant initiatives that grew out of the Salzburg program. Josef Haslinger, Elisabeth Reichart and Peter Rosei joined Howes in the bilingual readings of their work at Literaturachiv Salzburg.

The trip overseas also included a stop in Spain to visit the site of the education abroad program in Alcalá de Henares, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019, and to meet with companies involved in the Global Internship Program, which BGSU initiated in fall 2017.

Salazar-Valentine met with the nine students who are participating in the internship program this summer. From fall 2017 through summer 2018, there have been 13 students participating in global internships, representing psychology, sales and service marketing, economics, public relations, marketing, communication, sport management, supply chain management, biology, international studies, and tourism, leisure and event planning.

“The students are all doing very well and enjoying the experience,” she said.

The Global Internship Program,the 55 BGSU faculty-led and exchange programs abroad where students study for a semester or a year at a partner university, as well as the 400 affiliate programs, provide a valuable experience, Salazar-Valentine said.

“These partnerships work well at providing beautiful opportunities for our students to get ahead and experience learning and working in different cultures, and beginning to become global citizens," she said.

Manfred Mittelmeyer and Dr. Christina Guenther contributed to this article.