By fourth-year Dagny Dukach
Photo by Robert Kozloff

We see an increasing role for Paris as a fulcrum for activities across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.”
—John W. Boyer
Dean of the College

Since its inauguration in 2004, the University of Chicago Center in Paris has been a hub for collaboration with universities and research institutions across Europe. On Sept. 5-6, the Center will mark its 10th anniversary with a series of events and celebrations for scholars and alumni from Paris and throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The anniversary event will celebrate the Center’s first 10 years with an audience of faculty, students, and alumni as well as representatives from partner institutions and other scholars from around the world. The weekend’s events will include a panel discussion about the future role of the Center and a dinner discussion, titled "the Economic and Political Realities in Europe and the United States,” featuring Prof. Austan Goolsbee on Sept. 5. The following day, five distinguished UChicago faculty members will host lectures and lead excursions on topics ranging from the Arab Spring and the Syrian uprising to French literature and history.

Building on more than a century of international academic cooperation between UChicago and scholars in Europe, the Center in Paris was designed by renowned architect Catherine Furet and built in the “academic corridor” between the French National Library and the University of Paris Diderot in the 13th arrondissement. Since its founding, the Center has expanded twice to provide research support and educational opportunities in France for a growing number of UChicago faculty and students. Today, the Center offers undergraduate courses for 250 UChicago undergraduates and provides research offices for a dozen graduate students every year. In addition, the Center hosts a wide range of public lectures, colloquia, debates, and conferences. 

“The first of UChicago’s several global centers, the Center in Paris is a model for University-wide global engagement, featuring robust participation by faculty and students, stimulating discourse, and strong relationships with local educational and civic institutions,” says John W. Boyer, dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History.

Intellectual home for UChicago community

Ian Solomon, vice president for global engagement, will moderate a faculty discussion on the Center’s plans to continue serving University scholarship into its second decade. The panel, which will be webcast beginning at 10 a.m. CDT Sept. 5, will concentrate on the Center’s developing role as a gateway into the Middle East and Africa for university scholars and students, including programs such as African Civilization, which is based in Paris but spends a week in Senegal.

Paris is home to strong and diverse diaspora communities and scholars from around the world, allowing UChicago faculty to host workshops, meetings, and conferences at the Center on a variety of international issues. Archives and research collections in France also enable students and faculty to conduct research about regions of the world that they cannot visit because of various current events.

“We see an increasing role for Paris as a fulcrum for activities across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as a warm and welcoming intellectual home for all members and partners of our community,” says Boyer, emphasizing the Center’s international reach. Indeed, while the courses taught in Paris are enriched by their location and proximity to European scholars, the curriculum goes far beyond the study of things French; human evolution, biology, and colonialism are among the center’s recent and future offerings.

Prof. Angela Olinto teaches undergraduate courses on European astronomy as part of a Physical Sciences core program offered at the Center in Paris. “It’s an intense program,” says Olinto, the Homer J. Livingston Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, “but the students enjoy it a lot, and many even continue to study and work in our field as a result of their excellent experiences in Paris.” Olinto also pursues cutting-edge research through the Center in Paris, leading the U.S. team on a 15-nation coalition to design a cosmic ray telescope for deployment on the International Space Station. Especially in her field, Olinto explains, now that “international projects are the norm, having a base in France has helped immensely.”

Growing global programs

Indeed, the Center in Paris serves as a focal point for collaboration with scholars from around the world in every discipline. In recent years, the Center has supported multinational projects ranging from a study on displaced Syrian populations in France, to the Double Chooz experiment at a nuclear reactor on the border of France and Belgium, to a study on religion and globalization in the modern world.

In addition to supporting research and expanding opportunities for academic collaboration, the Center also serves as a hub for students and alumni throughout Europe and around the world. Meltem Kaso, AB’13, who graduated with a degree in comparative human development, participated in both the Primates and Human Evolution and Astronomy programs at the Center. “The UChicago Center in Paris showed me what it meant to experience UChicago without Chicago itself,” Kaso says. “In the smaller campus environment in Paris, I was able to get to know almost everyone in person, focusing on one academic subject at a time while exploring the architecture, culture, and academic opportunities of the city.”

Ten years after its founding, the Center in Paris continues to grow, developing ever more expansive networks and opportunities for academic collaboration. The Center fosters relationships between students, alumni, and faculty around the world, building connections that Olinto says will only “continue to grow stronger in the long run. And that,” says Olinto, “means a great future for all of us.”

The University of Chicago hosts global programs in more than 38 countries and on every continent. In addition to the Center in Paris, the University’s global centers in Delhi and Beijing bring together researchers and students to collaborate across the academic spectrum. Building on UChicago’s expanding international presence, work is also underway on a Center in Hong Kong, which will house a University of Chicago Booth School of Business Executive MBA program as well as other University programs. Chicago Booth also has campuses in London and Singapore, where UChicago faculty teach in degree–granting programs. 

Originally published on September 3, 2014.