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Bard’s involvement in international education was stimulated by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Over time, we have expanded our interests and partnership programs from Eastern and Central Europe to Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. In 1991, we began sponsoring undergraduate students who came to Bard from Eastern and Central Europe as part of the Program in International Education (PIE), which continues to this day. For a remarkable number of these young people, the nature of learning at Bard was the most profound experience of a transformative year. They encouraged us to explore possibilities for collaboration with institutions abroad that were interested in educational reform.
When faculty members from St. Petersburg State University (SPbU) approached Bard after the end of the Soviet Union, we joined together to initiate the joint venture that would become the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (FLAS - Smolny). Smolny offers a dual B.A. degree in liberal arts from Bard and SPbU. It is Russia’s first accredited liberal arts college and a significant force in the reform of Russian higher education. IILE manages Bard’s administrative work with Smolny. U.S. undergraduates also apply through IILE to participate in the Bard-Smolny program, which offers the unique opportunity to study abroad in liberal arts classrooms with Russian students.
The overthrow of Apartheid inspired us to expand our reach to South Africa and Zimbabwe. In 2000 we created the International Human Rights Exchange (IHRE). Originally a summer program run by a partnership of 13 Southern American universities and American liberal arts colleges, IHRE became a semester program jointly offered by Bard and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. At the time, IHRE was the only semester-long multidisciplinary human rights program in the world. IHRE is now available directly through the University of Witwatersrand.
In 2008, we were approached about the possibility of forging a partnership with Al-Quds University in Palestine. We gladly accepted, hoping to make a concrete contribution to peaceful development and a just solution to the problems of the Middle East. The Al-Quds Bard partnership is becoming Bard’s most comprehensive international partnership to date. It includes the creation of the a liberal arts college within Al-Quds University, a Master of Arts in Teaching Program (the first in the region), and a model school.
In 2009, Bard signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) that commits Bard and AUCA to offering a dual B.A. degree. AUCA, which is located in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, was founded in 1997 and has 1,300 students. Instruction is in English. This partnership offers opportunities for students from North American colleges and universities to spend a semester or a year at AUCA as visiting exchange students. Bard and AUCA have also collaborated on a successful summer internship program, Development, Sustainability, and Conflict: Contemporary Issues in Central Asia.
In 2002, the Institute became home to Words Without Borders, an online translation journal that opens doors to international exchange through translation of the world's best writing. Words Without Borders also serves as an advocacy organization for literature in translation and supports high school teachers who desire to incorporate the literature and culture of other countries into their lesson plans.
In 2006, we undertook the creation of the first comprehensive dictionary of the Igbo language, in partnership with the Chinua Achebe Foundation. Additional activities have included conferences on “Translation as Cultural Transmission. Toward a Politics and Poetics of Translation.” (1989), “Accounting for Atrocities. Prosecuting War Crimes Fifty Years After Nuremberg” (1998), and “The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Impact and Contributions” (2007).
In 2012 the Institute joined the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) at Bard College. The IILE and CCE work in close coordination to develop and promote international partnerships in liberal education and civil society.