Indiana University delegation concludes historic trip to Italy and Poland

WARSAW, Poland – Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and a delegation of IU representatives wrapped up a historic and productive trip to Europe that included the renewal of longstanding relationships with Italian and Polish universities and planning for future partnerships.

Highlights of the weeklong trip included Wednesday's celebration of the 40-year anniversary of IU's relationship with the University of Warsaw in the Polish capital and last week's celebration in Bologna, Italy, of the 50th anniversary of IU's partnership with the University of Bologna, the oldest continuously operating university in the West.

The trip also included the announcement of an unprecedented agreement with the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, which will result in the 3-D digitization of the museum’s entire collection of irreplaceable Greek and Roman sculpture.

The trip was organized by the Office of IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret, who accompanied McRobbie on the trip.

"Indiana University’s collaborations with some of the leading educational and cultural institutions in Italy and Poland have brought and will bring enormous benefits to all of our institutions," McRobbie said. "Through study abroad, our students have gained rich international experience that will serve them well in a global marketplace. Our faculty have developed strong personal bonds and expanded and widened important programs of research and scholarship.

'Rich international engagement of this kind is an essential element of Indiana University’s history. As we prepare to celebrate IU’s 200th anniversary in 2020, we look to the future with great confidence that these relationships will continue to thrive."

For decades, IU's engagement in Italy and Poland has played an important role in IU's global mission, described in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan. This calls for IU to consolidate its position as a leading global university by increasing study-abroad opportunities for students, recruiting talented international scholars, building international research collaboration and strengthening connections with international alumni and institutions.

IU’s relationship with the University of Warsaw dates from 1976, when the institutions collaborated to establish the American Studies Center in Warsaw and the Polish Studies Center at IU Bloomington at a time when such formal partnerships were very rare because of the Cold War.

Wednesday afternoon, McRobbie renewed IU's primary agreement with the University of Warsaw, which will observe its 200th anniversary in the fall, and participated in the 40th anniversary celebration of the partnership. To commemorate the occasion, the two universities launched the Krzysztof Michałek Memorial Lecture in American Studies. John Bodnar, IU Distinguished and Chancellor's Professor of History, delivered the inaugural lecture at the celebration on the topic of war and memory.

During the celebration, McRobbie presented the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion to University of Warsaw Rector Marcin Palys, in recognition of the landmark and successful partnership between the two universities. Palys bestowed upon McRobbie the prestigious Bicentenary Medal of the University, also in recognition of the 40 years of active partnership.

The visit to Italy and Poland began May 25 in Florence, with the announcement of the initiative with the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most respected art museums in Europe and home to some of the most admired classical antiquities in the history of art.

Under an agreement signed by McRobbie and Uffizi Director Eike Schmidt, IU's Virtual World Heritage Laboratory will create 3-D digital models of 1,250 sculptures. The five-year project, led by Bernard Frischer, IU professor of informatics and one of the world's leading virtual archaeologists, is expected to lead to further collaboration between the Uffizi and IU’s Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art.

In Florence, the IU delegation also toured the Italian headquarters of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. The center employs about 1,100 people and is one of Italy’s largest facilities for biotech production.

While in Bologna, McRobbie helped celebrate 50 years of one of IU's most successful overseas study programs. As part of the program, which now includes a consortium of 15 U.S. colleges and universities managed by IU, more than 1,600 IU students have studied in Italy and over 300 University of Bologna students have studied at IU. During the anniversary celebration, McRobbie presented the Benton Medallion to University of Bologna Rector Francesco Ubertini.

In Krakow, Poland, McRobbie signed a renewal agreement with Jagiellonian University, one of the world's oldest and one of Europe's most highly respected universities, extending a partnership, involving faculty and student exchanges, that formally began almost 20 years ago. McRobbie and the IU delegation also met with officials of the university, including President Wojciech Nowak.

The IU president was joined in Poland by Lee A. Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland and founding dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies. While in Warsaw, McRobbie and Feinstein met with current U.S. Ambassador to Poland Paul W. Jones and with other top government and higher education leaders.

Also in Warsaw, an agreement was signed with the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews that will enable IU undergraduate students to intern at the museum, which earlier this year was named European Museum of the Year. The POLIN Museum also has an agreement with IU Press for a book series, titled “Jewish Lives in Poland." The program director of the museum's acclaimed Core Exhibition is an IU alumna, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who took members of the IU delegation on a tour of the exhibition.

Others joining McRobbie on the trip included Hannah Buxbaum, academic director of the recently established IU Europe Gateway in Berlin and the John E. Schiller Chair in Legal Ethics in the IU Maurer School of Law, and Andrea Adam Moore, director of the IU Europe Gateway. The new office, established in Berlin in October, already is strengthening IU’s engagement in Europe by serving as a central hub for IU's activities across the continent.

Day-to-day accounts of the trip are available online at the IU Goes to Italy and Poland blog site.