50th anniversary celebration of IU Bologna study abroad program

University of Bologna
Aula Absidale di Santa Lucia, Via de’Chiari 25
Bologna, Italy

Friday, May 27, 2016


Thank you and good afternoon.

Magnifico Rettore Ubertini; Mrs Isabella Musa; members of the University of Bologna faculty and staff; distinguished guests; and distinguished alumni and friends of the Bologna Consortial Studies Program, in particular, all the former resident directors and staff of the program with us today:

It is truly an honor and a privilege to be here at the historic University of Bologna—one of Indiana University’s oldest and most valued international partners—for this celebration of the 50th anniversary of IU’s longest-standing undergraduate immersion exchange program.

The University of Bologna, “Nourishing Mother of all Studies”

As Indiana University prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2020, we are reminded that IU, like all American universities, was greatly assisted in the early years of its development by many much older, European universities. These institutions created the university as we know it today, with its faculties, curricula, examinations, and degrees, as well as the distinction between undergraduate and graduate study. In addition, many of our faculty in the early 20th century earned their Ph.D.s in Europe before most American universities were equipped to offer doctoral degrees.

Indiana University—and all American universities—owe a great debt of gratitude to European universities, and, in particular, to the University of Bologna—the mother of all universities, the oldest continuously operating university in the Western world.

Since its earliest days in the late 11th century, when masters of grammar, rhetoric, and logic began to devote themselves to the study and teaching of law, the University of Bologna has built a reputation of international acclaim, attracting such luminaries as Thomas Becket, Erasmus of Rotterdam, and Nicolaus Copernicus—among many others who came from all over Europe to study with the eminent scholars assembled here.

An education that provides students with global literacies

Indiana University and its partners in the consortium have sent students to study here at the University of Bologna for 50 years because we believe that student study and service abroad are essential components of a contemporary education, meant to prepare students to live and work in the modern world. In our increasingly interconnected world, a world in which no area is untouched by global forces and developments, international literacy and understanding, gained ideally through a period of study abroad, is a vital part of a university education.

Study abroad is an important way of ensuring that our students become globally literate, not just in their major fields of study, but more generally.

Increasing the number of IU undergraduates who study abroad has been a top priority of mine during my time as president of Indiana University.

Today, more than a quarter of the students on the IU Bloomington campus have studied abroad by the time they graduate. Our campus routinely ranks in the top 20 out of over 1,200 universities in the United States in terms of the number of students who study abroad.

Even more importantly, students who have studied abroad universally say that it is a life-changing experience.

For many undergraduates, their time studying abroad is also their first time travelling abroad, so not only are they acquiring global literacy and understanding, they are also learning the skills of, and gaining confidence in, living, working, studying, and travelling internationally. The contacts they make while studying abroad often lead to lifelong friendships and productive international networks.  

While studying abroad, students are also becoming familiar with places and people that may become part of their careers. American businesses—and businesses and organizations around the world—desire employees who have international experience and experience working in a team environment with people from different countries and cultures.

We saw this just yesterday when we visited the Florence manufacturing plant of the Eli Lilly Company—one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and one that is based in Indiana.

The Bologna Consortial Studies Program

For five decades, the study abroad partnership whose anniversary we celebrate today has enjoyed tremendous success and has made major contributions to the lives of both American and Italian students.

More than 1,500 American students—from Indiana University, from our partners in the consortium, and from more than 50 other institutions—have studied here in Bologna over the last 50 years. And over the last 20 years, 280 Italian undergraduate students and dozens of Italian graduate students have come to the United States to study at IU and other universities with which we partner in the consortium.

Indiana University takes great pride in the fact that the program was founded by an IU faculty member, the late Distinguished Professor Mark Musa, a renowned Dante scholar. We also take pride in the fact that the program was among the first American study abroad programs to be established here at the University of Bologna. IU and Professor Musa chose to partner with the University of Bologna because of its academic prestige as the oldest university in Italy—and, indeed the Western world—and because Professor Musa had professional contacts here, notably with the late Professor Ezio Raimondi, the great critic and leading scholar of Italian literature. Professor Raimondi served for many years as the official sponsor of the Bologna program and as one of its main teachers and advisors.

As you have heard this afternoon, a number of distinguished institutions—beginning with the University of Wisconsin—have joined Indiana University as a partners in the program over the years. All of these prestigious institutions have robust Italian language programs that prepare their students for the immersion experience as well as strong study abroad offices that provide support for their students in partnership with the Office of Overseas Study at Indiana University, which manages this complex relationship.

From the beginning of the program, the goal was for students to have a fully immersive experience in Bologna. American students in the program have been integrated as fully as possible into the University of Bologna. They attend classes with Italian students in an academically demanding program. And their year concludes with oral examinations in Italian—a daunting challenge for most American students, as many of you can attest. And while here, the students have lived with Italian students, which has helped to further immerse them in Italian life and culture. In order to enhance students’ classroom education, the program also arranges for internship placements in local museums, schools, law firms, hospitals, and other organizations.

Another goal was to strengthen the cooperative ties between the consortium’s member institutions and the University of Bologna. Toward that end, we have been engaged throughout the history of the program in student exchanges. Many graduates of the University of Bologna went to Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin to begin graduate work, with many of them remaining to earn doctoral degrees, and then joining the faculties of universities in the United States and around the world. Among these are the renowned astronomer, Riccardo Giovanelli, who is on the faculty at Cornell University, and Raffaela Baccolini, professor of English Literature here at the University of Bologna. We are also proud that an alumnus of the University of Bologna who came to IU as an exchange student, Massimo Scalabrini, currently chairs the Department of French and Italian at Indiana University. And I am delighted that these three scholars are here with us today. Many of the 280 undergraduate exchange students from the University of Bologna who studied at one of our consortium partner institutions are now engaged in successful careers in diverse fields around the world. Their participation in the program has contributed, in ways large and small, to their success.

The Bologna program has also fostered the short-term exchange of dozens of faculty members across such diverse fields as kinesiology, sociology, history, and political science.

The program is then one of the cornerstones of Indiana University’s long and extensive history of international partnership and engagement. Because much of that international engagement has been based in Europe, it was fitting that, last year, we established the IU Europe Gateway Office, which now serves as a home base for IU activities in Europe. Located in Berlin, the office supports scholarly research and teaching, conferences and workshops, study abroad programs, distance learning initiatives, executive and corporate training, alumni events, and much, much more.

The IU Europe Gateway Office, first and foremost, however, is symbolic of Indiana University’s desire to work in a spirit of mutually beneficial cooperation with European universities, business, and other institutions, as well as Europe’s social and cultural leaders.

The Bologna Consortial Studies Program also reflects that commitment.


The longstanding collaboration between the University of Bologna and Indiana University has brought enormous benefits to both institutions. Our students have shared ideas and learned from each other’s perspectives. Extraordinary strong personal bonds have linked members of our faculties, who have grown in wisdom and ability through fifty years of collaboration.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this remarkable program, and as the program enters the next phase of its operation, I am confident that the partnership between our institutions will continue to thrive.

On behalf of Indiana University, I extend my congratulations and most sincere thanks to Rettore Ubertini and his predecessors; to all of the faculty, students, and staff of the University of Bologna; and to all of the faculty and staff from IU and our partner institutions who have helped to make the Bologna Consortial Studies Program such an enormous success for 50 years.

Best wishes for continued success in the program’s next 50 years and beyond.

Grazie mille.

Presentation of Hart Benton Medallion to Rector Francesco Ubertini

Rector Ubertini, would you join me at the podium?

Magnifico Rettore, Indiana University greatly values its partnership with the University of Bologna.

The Bologna Consortial Studies Program is Indiana University’s longest-standing undergraduate immersion exchange program and the largest such program in Bologna. For half a century, this splendid partnership has brought enormous benefits to both of our institutions, and it has profoundly and positively affected the lives of many students and faculty of both institutions by providing an opportunity for intensive growth and learning.

To recognize such outstanding partnerships, Indiana University established the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion. First given in 1986, the bronze medal features a representation of a portion of the renowned American artist Thomas Hart Benton’s murals depicting the “Social and Industrial History of Indiana.” The majority of the Benton murals are now located in the Indiana University Auditorium, with additional panels in other locations on our Bloomington campus. The reverse side of the medallion features the seal of Indiana University. It symbolizes the aspirations and ideals that are the foundation of the search for knowledge—aspirations and ideals that Indiana University and the University of Bologna share.

And so, by the authority vested in me by the Trustees of Indiana University, and in gratitude for all the University Bologna has done over 50 years to foster the partnership we celebrate today, I present to you, Rettore Francesco Ubertini, the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion.