European Union Policy Studies

Letter from the Director

Fall 2017

John Scherpereel Florence

Dear EUPS Alumni and Friends,

As I write, the EUPS program is in the midst of its fall break. The sixteen members of the current cohort are undertaking various investigations and explorations: from Bratislava to Lisbon, Perugia to Atlanta, they are seeing new sites, catching their breath, and reflecting on the progress they’ve made (midterms done!), the relationships they’ve formed, and the state of Europe and the world. As always, faculty members and I hope that they return to Florence refreshed and reinvigorated.

In one sense, the members of the current EUPS cohort are just a few months behind alumni and friends of the program who, in May, marked the program’s tenth anniversary in Florence. Throughout the anniversary event’s four days, we, too caught our breath, reflected, paused to appreciate relationships, and talked through issues of Italian, European, transatlantic, and global concern. It was a memorable few days. Here, too, I hope that everyone who made the trip left Florence refreshed, reinvigorated, and reminded of the role that the city and the program have played in their life journeys. I look forward to similar events to come!

Since May, we’ve been busy. In June, Anthony Gardner, who served as US Ambassador to the EU from 2014-2017, delivered the keynote address and, with families, friends, and professors, celebrated the accomplishments of the class of 2017 in Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Later in the summer, we signed two new and improved agreements with our long-term partners at the European University Institute and the University of Florence. Alumna Aimee Cipicchio (M.A. 2008) hosted a lovely welcome back/send-off event after Kevin Herzik (M.A. 2010), Andrew Medley (M.A. 2009), Peg Schmelzinger (M.A. 2015), and Abby Ware (M.A. 2014) sat down with incoming students at the JMU DC Center to share words of welcome, advice, and (not least!) wisdom.

The momentum has continued this fall.  

In Florence, for example, students and staff are preparing for an innovative conference that we will host this spring. Most program alums and friends know that the program has been active in Europe’s youngest state—Kosovo—for the past few years. While we continue to establish connections in Pristina, we are also excited to “bring Kosovo to Florence” and to engage more broadly with other southeast European partners. In April, the EUPS program will host “Engaging Southeastern Europe: American, European, and Broader Global Partnerships.” Faculty members and students from Florence, the University of Pristina, and the University of Zagreb will spend a week deepening professional bonds and debating the future of Europe. For EUPS students, the southeastern Europe conference will be a wonderful primo piatto ahead of the annual symposium at the EUI—it will allow them to deliver and receive feedback on a second paper. But the conference will not simply be about academic exchange. In addition, international teams (consisting of Kosovar, American, Croatian, Italian, and perhaps other students) will prepare workshops designed to engage Florentine high school students and the broader Florentine community in considerations of “Europe” – what does it mean, what does it stand for, how is it appreciated in the continent’s various corners and in the world at large?

In Washington, meanwhile, the EUPS advisory board recently held its first meeting at the JMU Washington Center. I very much enjoyed meeting with the board and discussing our four priority areas of activity and the concrete steps that we can take in the months to come.  Of those four areas—student support, alumni career development, program visibility, and fundraising—the board decided to focus short- and medium-term efforts on the first two. Be ready (Read your emails! Check your Facebook and LinkedIn feeds!) for more information on these initiatives moving forward, and please have a look at the piece on the advisory board in this issue of the newsletter for more information about the board’s members (including contact details).

Of course, it’s been a busy fall in the broader EU, as well. Theresa May tried to establish some Brexit momentum in her Santa Maria Novella speech in May. Heads of state and government continue to hash out ideas for tighter security and defense cooperation and potential “multi-speed” arrangements, while the future of Spanish-Catalan relations remain uncertain. While the first (Dutch, French) elections of 2017 seemed to parry some of 2016’s populist thrust, more recent central European elections (German, Austrian, Czech) suggest that it is too early to proclaim the decisive resurrection of the pro-EU center. As always, EUPS students and alums have much to make sense of – the world needs their careful analyses, their perspective, and their insights!

Tanti saluti, e forza JMU!

John Scherpereel

John A. Scherpereel

Executive Director, EUPS Program

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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