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AIEP 40th-Anniversary Conference

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The international conference, “Change through Exchange,” explores the forty-year contribution of the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program (AIEP) to the historic relationship between the United States and Austria in the humanities, social sciences, business administration, and engineering. During the past two decades alone, the Program has administered the exchange of over 2,000 students from Austria (Vienna University of Economics and Business-WU, University of Vienna, and the Vienna University of Technology-TU) and the United States (from the corresponding colleges of the University of Illinois and students from numerous other U.S. colleges and universities). Many of its alumni have assumed leading positions in the public and private sphere in Europe and the United States. The Program’s expanding network of components has facilitated this process and may be considered a model for similar partnerships.

The conference purpose for reviewing a history of hard-won success in academic exchange is to identify best practices for broadening and deepening the Program’s reach within the existing partnership and beyond. To this end it focuses attention on environmental sustainability and cultural integration: two key issues in the global community today. They also are receiving increasing Program-development attention. The conference asserts that international and interdisciplinary discourse provides a productive connective tissue for theoretical and practical work on these and other pressing issues. In the process it tests the mechanisms of and enacts models with which academic exchange nurtures global leadership in the 21st century.

The conference is a deliberate response to the Illinois Strategic Plan “to create a brilliant future for the University of Illinois in which students, faculty, and staff thrive and the citizens of Illinois, the nation, and the world benefit.” The Urbana-Champaign campus has set five corresponding goals for itself and specified its definition of benefit: “Its educational programs promote innovation, cultivate justice, enhance social mobility, and improve the quality of life by responding to local, national and global societal needs.” In other words, the University strives to reach beyond state and national boundaries with its programs, acknowledging that success depends on its ability to collaborate broadly in the quest for global improvements in quality of life.

Among the five goals the University has set to achieve success is “Leadership for the 21st Century” and initiatives like the following:

It is foremost with these initiatives that the AIEP contributes to the University’s strategic plan. They constitute the primary impetus to engage with our Austrian partners in this international conference.