The Transatlantic Studies Organization (TSO) has been formed to carry on the tradition of the recently cancelled Transatlantic Seminar on the European Union (EU), a program Miami University has offered as a study abroad program for the past 20 years.
Political science professor emeritus Warren Mason, TSO faculty adviser, said the program was cancelled due to a stipulation in university policy that any person who is not a member of full-time staff cannot offer programs in the summer for credit.
Mason taught at Miami for 45 years and recently retired to part-time teaching, meaning he could no longer host the program through the university.
“The cancellation of the seminar came about rather quickly,” Mason said. “I had just returned from a trip to Asia and it was already a done deal.”
He said the Transatlantic Seminar has been offered at Miami in some form for more than 20 years.
Mason, who is responsible for the Transatlantic Seminar’s conception, has been leading the program since its birth in the early 1980s.
However, with the end of the Transatlantic Seminar, comes the beginning of the TSO.
The TSO is a student group so newly formed that the group’s official papers are still being processed by ASG, said senior Thad Boggs, president of TSO.
Boggs was among the group of students who traveled to Europe in the summer of 2008, earning eight credit hours for the program.
Boggs said it was just a few weeks into the school year when he found out that Miami administrators had cancelled the Transatlantic Seminar.
“When those of us who went on the seminar this past summer found out that the university was taking their hands off of the program, we were motivated to find a way to keep it going,” Boggs said.
Thus, a small band of juniors and seniors formed the TSO.
Boggs said the seminar is a five-week program offered in the summer, where a group of approximately 15-20 students travel across six major European cities: Paris, Berlin, Prague, Luxembourg, Brussels and London.
He said the Transatlantic Seminar offers students in-depth experience and exposure to professional people in all levels of the government, finance and business fields throughout the EU.
Mason said during last summer’s program, students met with members of the House of Lords in London, the European Defense Agency in Brussels, the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, Citibank officials in Prague and U.S. Embassy officers in Paris, along with a score of other top officials.
Boggs also said each student independently develops a research topic of their own interest relating to the EU, with the seminar culminating in a written analysis of their research. This helps students to gain specialization in a specific area.
“The seminar is a pre-professional opportunity to help students make a seamless transition from the university level to graduate school or career levels,” Mason said.
Boggs said that in past years, the university has sponsored the program as a credited capstone course, with students paying for their own travel, lodging and food on top of tuition and fees.
Boggs said that with no more tuition and fee expenses the program will now be cheaper for students.
Mason said the provisional cost for the summer 2009 trip is $7,975, significantly less than the equivalent for-credit seminar offered in the past.
Mason said students will not receive credit hours for the program but the program is considered a way to extend the research of those who have taken POL 423 (or equivalent preparation) and want to cultivate greater specialization in the European field.
Junior Jason Kulig, TSO treasurer said he was devastated when he found out the Transatlantic Seminar was cancelled and wanted to help keep the valuable cultures and ideas of the EU available to future students.
“There is no other study abroad program like this seminar, the connections we made with high-level people was unbelievable,” Kulig said.
The officers of the TSO, all of which went on the Transatlantic Seminar this past summer, agreed with Kulig that the main goal of the organization is to guarantee future students can have the same experience as they did.
Kulig said both he and the group’s vice president, Brendan Burke, are juniors and will be able to carry on the group next fall.
Despite the academic change, Boggs said there is a good list of students interested in the five-week program for the summer of 2009, which will be held from May 15 to June 19.
As for the extended future of the Transatlantic Seminar, Kulig said it will keep going as long as there are faculty members to run it.
Mason admits that as much as he would like to keep running the program for 20 more years, the reality is that he might only be able to for three to four more years. Mason said that he has not found anyone to take over the program yet, however some of his colleagues have shown interest.
“I really believe in this program, I love to see the students get involved in the subject matter and once we get overseas they are just transformed … You never want to change something when it works and this seminar is highly successful,” Mason said.
For more information on the new Transatlantic Seminar visit http://www.transatlanticseminar.blogspot.com.