Our long-term partnerships are characterized by the exchange of students, faculty, and curricular elements. Comprehensive exchanges afford the best possibility for the participants, both in and out of the classroom, to enter into direct, sustained dialogue on intellectual and cultural issues–precisely the kind of international dialogue that is needed to respond to the global challenges of the 21st century. Unlike the unilateral “exchanges” of the past, such substantive academic partnerships foster mutual respect and understanding and enrich learning and teaching for all students and faculty at Bard and participating institutions, not just those individuals who go abroad themselves. The Institute does not seek to export American models and methods. Rather, our aim is to create dynamic relationships through which we and our partner institutions learn from each others’ ideas and experience.
What We Do
The Institute’s projects, developed under the leadership of the Center for Civic Engagement, are located in regions undergoing rapid political and economic transformation (currently Russia, East Central Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia). Our partners are leading universities with an interest in educational reform.
The IILE and Center for Civic Engagement at Bard College participate in the Institute for International Education's (IIE) commitment to support students from Syria through a scholarship for a displaced Syrian student. Additional student initiatives supported through the IILE and CCE include a fund to support a Berlin - Jerusalem exchange for students at Bard College Berlin and Al-Quds Bard College and funds to support science majors from Al-Quds Bard in the Bard Summer Research Internship at Bard College in Annandale.
- Susan H. Gillespie, Founding Director, IILE
- Jen Murray, Dean of International Studies and Director, IILE and Bard Abroad
- Leiah Heckathorn, Associate Director, Bard Abroad
- Caroline Clark, International Program Coordinator, Bard-AUCA and Bard-Smolny
- Gillian Brundrett, Assistant to the Director and Financial Coordinator
- Trish Fleming, Study Abroad Adviser
- Lauren Cooke, Program Assistant, IILE
More About IILE
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 practicum program, Development, Sustainability, and Conflict: Contemporary Issues in Central Asia.
The Institute, acting as Bard Abroad, also administers direct exchanges of students with several leading international universities and language intensives for undergraduates.
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.
The Institute for International Liberal Education is a member of the Forum on Education Abroad and adheres to the Standards of Good Practice.
The IILE also holds memberships with Diversity Abroad and the Institute of International Education, our Assistant Director is a member of, and participates in events sponsored by, NAFSA (Association of International Educators).
Information on the current Clery Report for Bard College may be found at the Dean of Student Affairs website.
A Tradition of Liberal Arts
The tradition of liberal arts is often held to be an American or Anglo-American tradition, and it is true that it is most widely practiced in the U.S. However, its origins are broader, going back to Classical Antiquity, through which it was transmitted to Europe and Asia. There is no definitive definition of liberal arts education, but it is generally held to involve critical thinking—defined as the capacity to examine questions from diverse disciplinary, philosophical, or political points of view—and a style of teaching that seeks to elicit curiosity and an active search for knowledge on the part of students. There is a natural relationship between liberal education, with its encouragement of tolerance, openness, and the free exchange of ideas, on the one hand, and democracy on the other.
Applied to the increasingly recognized realm of “international,” or “global,” education, liberal arts education appears in three types:
- Programs and relationships created by liberal arts institutions in the U.S. as a means of offering international experience to their students (too often in the form of so-called “island programs”)
- Liberal arts institutions abroad, founded either by Americans or by individuals or groups from those countries, usually catering to local or regional students
- Partnerships of various types and intensities.
Bard’s international partnerships are somewhere in between. Where we are wholly unique is in our commitment to fostering the spread of liberal arts education as a tool of democratization and a means of modernizing and improving education globally. Primarily, our partnership programs serve young people from the countries where they are located. Secondarily, they offer an unparalleled opportunity for students from North America (or elsewhere) to study abroad at an institution in which they are immersed in the culture of a foreign country, take courses with young people from that country or region, and at the same time enjoy the benefits of liberal arts instruction. Our “deep partnerships” also spread the challenges and benefits of international collaboration among the many actors in our institutional life—faculty and administrators as well as students.
Bard’s international partnerships express an engaged politics of education. We are, indeed, as a colleague once remarked, “agents of globalization.” But ours is a countervailing agency that consciously seeks to encourage mutual critique, oppose hegemony, and foster a democracy of equals and true exchange of values. In a word, we try to implement the core values of liberal education. Like our students, we also learn as much as we teach, and feel fortunate to have the opportunity.
The Institute for International Liberal Education would not exist without the generosity of its donors and friends. First of all, we offer our thanks to Jim and Mary Ottaway, whose friendship and generosity inspired the PIE program and has supported virtually all of our projects. We also owe our endowment to the Ottaways’ extraordinary generosity.
We also offer our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to:
- Bob and Helen Bernstein
- Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Selma Ertegun
- Ford Foundation
- Gagarin Trust
- Kellner Family Foundation
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
- The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
- Open Society Institute
- James Ottaway, Jr., and family
- Felicitas Thorne
- Tides Foundation
- Van Meeteren Foundation