OGDEN, Utah – A federal grant will provide new opportunities for Weber State University students to pursue international careers in Europe.
WSU's European Studies program, offered through the Department of Foreign Languages, recently received a two-year grant from the Department of Education worth $240,000. WSU's program was one of only 29 nationwide to be selected from a pool of more than 130 applicants.
"I really didn't expect we'd be selected," said Erika Daines, the European Studies coordinator and author of the grant proposal. "It was our first year making the request and historically, funding is given to Asian, Latin American and African studies." She said it was the first time in 10 years a European studies program received funding from the Department of Education's Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program.
Daines said perspectives changed after September 11. "The dynamics are very different. There is a great need for Americans to be aware of what is happening in Europe –old and new Europe." As an example, she points out how the CIA and FBI now share intelligence information with European countries in an effort to combat terrorism. Similar U.S. partnerships with Europe are taking place in the military, government agencies and the private sector.
In writing her grant proposal, Daines noted the unique nature of WSU's student body. "We have students who return from their church missions fluent in Albanian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and Ukranian, but despite good oral skills, they lack the cultural and historical perspectives that make that language skill truly useful," she said.
The European Studies minor offers students personalized instruction to supplement their majors. Coursework provides students from a variety of academic disciplines with insight into European political science, history, culture, and business language. Each student's course requirements are specifically tailored to provide relevant cultural context for his or her career plans or area of study. Some of Daine's former students have landed jobs with major international companies such as Puma and Daimler-Chrysler in Germany. Daines said European companies' demand for American employees continues to grow.
Closer to home, Daines said the grant will help the program develop student exchange agreements, establish internships with international companies, expand the number of courses available and attract speakers to campus who are experts on European issues and politics.
Fifteen students are currently enrolled in European Studies at WSU, the only program of its kind offered by a public institution in the state.