Fostering international relations

Courtesy / Jeff Dykehouse
President Haas taking a moment for a photo op with Giorgio Montanari, dean of the Political Science Department at the University of Perugia.

Jeff Dykehouse

Courtesy / Jeff Dykehouse President Haas taking a moment for a photo op with Giorgio Montanari, dean of the Political Science Department at the University of Perugia.

Claire Fodell

Grand Valley State University and the University of Perugia in central Italy celebrated their sister school partnership with a formal lunch at the DeVos Center on GVSU’s Pew Campus on Wednesday. The lunch
was held to celebrate the past 10 years of the partnership between the universities and to renew the
agreement between the two institutions.

In attendance were political science professors from GVSU, exchange students who have been to
Perugia through the program, GVSU President Thomas Haas, members of the sister city board and
Giorgio Eduardo Montanari, the dean of the political science department at the University of Perugia,
with his family.

“We signed the first agreement in 2003,” Montanari said. “It was one of my first duties as dean.”

The original agreement between the universities was for the exchange of professors only in the
political science department from each university. In September of 2003, a professor from the
University of Perugia came to GVSU to teach a few classes, and in May of 2004 a professor from GVSU
went to Perugia to teach.

Since then, a total of seven GVSU professors have taught at Perugia, and six Perugia professors have
taught at GVSU. This exchange only lasted six years, when the partnership switched to a student
exchange in 2009.

The new agreement signed by Haas and Montanari will last until 2016 and is still restricted to
exchanges of faculty and students in the political science department.

“We would like to develop some research together if possible,” Montanari said of a reason behind the

The agreement was made short so that during the next three years, professors at both universities can
try to find a way to make the program available for other disciplines of study.

“We are committed to enlarge to other departments,” Montanari said. “The program will give a chance
for GVSU students to know the Italian culture and the Italian hearts.”

Though there aren’t any GVSU students currently studying in Perugia, four have done so since the last
agreement was signed. The University of Perugia has sent seven students to study at GVSU since then,
and Daniela Eletti is currently the only student from Perugia studying at GVSU.

Eletti is enthusiastic that more students will be able to participate in the same program if it is
expanded to other departments.

“I think it’s wonderful that more people will have the opportunity on both sides,” Eletti said, and she is
sure there will be an increase in the number of her peers from Italy interested in the program.

Mario Amaya-Velazquez, a GVSU student who studied in Perugia and an employee at the Padnos
International Center, is also very passionate about the opportunities that the extension and possible
expansion of the program will bring.

“I’m hopeful that more students will take interest as the program opens up,” Amaya-Velazquez said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to engage in cross-cultural connections.”

The partnership was sparked from the Sister City relationship that Grand Rapids has had with the city
of Perugia for the past 20 years.

The Sister City program was created by President Dwight Eisenhower as a way to connect U.S. cities
with cities all over the world. The desired outcome of the program is for the two cities to gain
knowledge and understanding of each other through community exchanges of cultural and ethnic

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