Don Wallace served as the Executive Director of Consortium for Transatlantic Studies & Scholarship (CTSS) from 2014-2017. This is his experience collaborating with the Instituto Franklin-UAH.
How long have you been collaborating with the Instituto Franklin-UAH?
Don Wallace: Since 2011. The Consortium for Transatlantic Studies and Scholarship (CTSS) came here from the Netherlands, and affiliated itself with the Instituto Franklin-UAH, and now this organization of universities from throughout the US and Europe is facilitating study programs for students and faculty. It’s my second time teaching here. CTSS also promotes with Instituto Franklin scholarly opportunities for academics and researchers, I’ve been here for three conferences, presenting and bringing students. I’ve co-authored papers with them, helped with the organization at some of these conferences, so I feel like I’m at home here.
What are some highlights of your stay here?
DW: The class itself is a highlight because it’s a great treat to be able to teach American students here. To be here helps to reduce some barriers, allowing these Midwestern American to think about Europe in a different way than we would talk about it in the middle of the US. So things become very important to them and they want to know about—we’re talking about immigration issues, which we rarely hear about on the news, let alone consider to a great extent in the US. But once we’re here that becomes an important and salient kind of feature here to be able to come to Europe, to Spain, and talk about issues that are critically important to the US but we just find it so distant to us until we get here. So that’s always a pleasure to discuss with students these kinds of issues in this venue.
What opportunities have you had access to during your stay at Instituto Franklin-UAH?
DW: Being engaged in CTSS has led to some possibilities for come creative interactions with academics from universities in the U.S. and in Europe. I was able to have a colleague who teaches in Sweden whom I met in working with CTSS, he came here and helped teach a couple of the classes with me. This is one of the things about this program in that instructos get to meet other academics from other universities, from other countries. I’d like to think he came here just because I was here. I suspect there were other reasons for being in Alcala de Henares in that he brought his entire family with him to enjoy Spain for the week! But be that as it may, it was a wonderful treat to have him in the classroom with the students. And we were able to talk about continuing some scholarly projects that we have been on which we have been working.
Is it easy to run the program here?
DW: Because of the staff? You bet, as we say in the US. Absolutely. It’s a wonderful treat to come here. For our university we do have opportunities for our students to go abroad. It’s usually through faculty-led programs. That means faculty have complete responsibility over these students. It’s a pleasure to come here. Yes, you’re responsible for the students in the classroom but outside the classroom we don’t have to worry that much. It really becomes the responsibility of the Instituto Franklin-UAH and they do a terrific job. They’re very good with our students, they’re very good with working with faculty; the staff can easily organize tours of various government agencies within the community. My previous class was able to visit a Spanish court hearing and visit with several judges, where the facilities were in easy walking distance from our classroom. This session, the staff arranged to have a visiting researcher speak to my class in great depth on the various jihadist groups impacting the security of Europe and the surrounding area. It’s been a great pleasure. If I need something even from a stapler to help on the first day finding where the classroom is, they’re always there to help.
How is the staff here?
DW: The staff is wonderful, I’ll say it again!
Did you come here with your family?
DW: Well my wife is coming tomorrow and I know she will love it. I’m going to brag about the apartment I’m in – it’s just a lovely well-appointed apartment, completely furnished. It’s great to be able to walk from the apartment to campus. It’s a nice distance here, just under a kilometer. This is a lovely country and you walk through the city, and of course you walk across Cervantes square and my favorite Spanish folks are there perched on top of the roofs, these are the storks greeting you in the morning. It’s a terrific experience just to walk across the city. Yes, my wife will enjoy being here.
Why should other professors do this program?
DW: Well, as I was saying it’s a great way to meet folks from other institutions. Not necessarily even American institutions. It’s amazing how you can connect with academics in a different setting that takes you out of your country. It’s a good opportunity to get you out of your comfort zone. For the CTSS program, faculty can submit course proposals and these don’t have to be the courses that one always teaches. It may be something that the instructor has been interested in and wants to develop it for the classroom. This is a great opportunity to do that. The courses in the CTSS program are 4-weeks in length (Monday through Thursday), so the stay here for faculty is much more manageable than a full-semester obligation. Faculty do get to meet with students from other universities. They’re primarily American students, the courses are taught in English. It’s a really fantastic opportunity to just interact, which is what academics ought to be doing most of the time.
What do you think Alcala offers that a large city like Madrid does not?
DW: Storks. (laughs)
Just kind of what I was talking about, the ability to walk from your apartment to the place that you’re going to be working, that’s such a treat for us. I don’t think that would be possible in Madrid. For my home campus in Warrensburg, Missouri it is in a much smaller town than this but most people still have to drive to get to work. Here it’s such a great experience for us to be able to walk and enjoy this very European setting. So there’s that, and there’s such a good sense of community in the Institute.
How can this program benefit students?
DW: For the American students that come over here, they need to understand, for the 90 days that they’re here, it’s designed that way so that they don’t have to get the visa to come here. So the CTSS program avoids that cumbersome and expensive process. Students do pick up 12 credit hours. It’s very affordable, the program fees are probably going to be comparable to what you spend on campus for residential housing and 12 credit hours at the institution. They will be here with other American students, probably some friends from their institution. You can’t find a better way to start that process of taking college classes in another country. It can be a daunting prospect for a student to go overseas, not being very familiar with the culture or language, and be completely on one’s own. Here a student can start off with some familiar faces and maybe a professor or two already known from back home. They can find out what courses are available and make sure it fits into their program.
Is there anything you wish you would have known before coming here?
DW: Probably more knowledge of the Spanish language. I always wish I would have known a little bit more about current events and what’s going on in Spain.
Anything else you want to add?
DW: The CTSS Program is open to new universities that want to join. For faculty that are interested in teaching here they probably will need to talk to their international office on their campus. It’s an easy process, the Instituto Franklin-UAH folks are eager to accommodate those interested in joining CTSS. Once that happens it’s going to be very easy for the faculty member to work with the folks here and understand what is needed in terms of course proposal and for encouraging students to attend this program.