Letter from the Director

M.A. in Political Science, European Union Policy Studies
Executive Director Dr. Charles Blake

Dear EUPS Alumni and Friends,

Each spring brings with it winds of change, but springtime in 2021 has felt particularly brimming with high hopes amid ongoing global challenges. The upswing in vaccination in the United States and subsequently in Europe has reduced the rate of COVID-19 infections to their lowest levels since September 2020. Research on the impact of the vaccines, unfolding in real time, has generated evidence supporting the effectiveness of the vaccines prominently in use. 

The efficacy of the vaccines breeds optimism. It also raises important questions moving forward. How quickly can supply increase to offer protection to the entire global human family? In turn, as supplies of the vaccine increase, how can research be presented to the public so that people can make evidence-based decisions about getting vaccinated? The global community depends ultimately on the decisions and actions of all of its members.

Interdependence is not new. It is a feature of all societies, ranging in size from the global population, down to the level of neighborhoods and families. The EUPS program also depends on our community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and various allies in and beyond Florence.

This issue of the EUPS newsletter examines several key aspects of the past, present, and future of Florence & this program. Florence and our Florentine staff and graduate students provide the essential heartbeat of the program. Lily Gates writes about how the European Union has worked fitfully to slow the spread of COVID-19. Caterina Paolucci discusses a project designed by the Associazione Via Maggio as a chronicle about the rise, fall, and resurrection of tram-based travel in Florence and its surrounding communities, into a possible model for the new mobility and smart tourism of the post-pandemic age. In her second piece, she shows how pandemic response impacted EUPS directly, by culminating in the emergence of a new set of remote internships focused on the pursuit of human rights in Europe yet housed in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC). Finally, Morgan Raymond catches up with a handful of EUPS alumni about their inspiring career paths. 

As we reflect on the dynamics of the global community and of il Comune di Firenze, it is important that we also value and nurture the vitality of our alumni community. Alumni are a crucial resource for each other, for current students, and for any program or university. Alumni are, frankly, the living embodiment of any academic program. They bear witness to the impact of the program on their career development and their personal growth. As I write these lines, our Alumni Board is helping to design a pilot mentoring program for current students and young alumni. They are also helping our program to expand alumni involvement in student recruitment. Third, they are resuming conversations (that had been stalled by the pandemic) about how to create alumni programming sprinkled throughout the year beyond our annual August gathering. 

Alumni also provide a key feedback loop to help our pursuit of the continuous improvement of the EUPS program. When our biannual alumni survey comes your way later this summer, I encourage you to participate. We want to hear from you!

May 2021 is a very busy time for the EUPS program. The policy working groups for the EU-funded project TRACK-STAR will hold their first meetings in late May. These working groups aspire to stimulate policy exploration and innovation on climate change; energy; circular economy and biodiversity; democracy and transparency; digital economy; trade and investment; and regulatory cooperation. The project will also provide learning opportunities for our students. 

This is also of course a busy time for the current class of 2021. Beyond their internships, our students are meeting with a series of practitioners from within and beyond our alumni community as they plan for the next steps beyond their upcoming June graduation. I look forward to conducting mock interviews with them later this month as another part of that process.

Earlier this month, we held the first pre-departure orientation for the incoming Class of 2022. We are confident that they will make their own marks on the future of this program – both as students and, more enduringly, as alumni of our program. 

We will be working in the coming weeks to determine whether we can resume our August gatherings this year in support of the new class and in support of each other. I will reach out to our alumni community on this point in July. Regardless of the prevailing conditions and regulations in place at that time, please know that your engagement with our program – which takes place in varied forms -- makes life better for our current students, for our recent graduates, and for our entire alumni community.

Cordiali saluti,

Charles Blake

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Published: Thursday, May 20, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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