Reconsider Innsbruck decision
Bob Woodrick | Monday, February 22, 2010
Dear Fellow Innsbruckers and Notre Dame Office of International Studies (OIS) Administrators,
As a former school administrator, I can understand that in difficult economic times, with the endowment going down in value and staff salaries and student tuitions rising, all programs at the University are under a fiscal microscope. Faced with similar situations in the public school setting, I generally opted for the elimination of extracurricular activities in order to maintain a solid academic program.
At the university level, however, the question will always be what constitutes a “solid academic program?” Put another way, what constitutes a solid liberal arts education? For me personally, the education I received in one year in Innsbruck (1966-67 — yes, the year Ara and Notre Dame were national champions) was not only solid and challenging academically, given my level of competency in German, but also “liberal” and liberating in the finest tradition of the liberal arts.
Viewing the Pieta, for example, in person at St. Peter’s in Rome was far different and far more rewarding than viewing slides of the Pieta presented in an auditorium on campus at Notre Dame during art appreciation class.
The Notre Dame founding fathers of the Innsbruck and Angers programs got it right. Put Notre Dame students in university towns similar in size and composition (conservative, Catholic) to Notre Dame, allow every student with at least a basic understanding of the foreign language to attend, keep the cost of attending nearly equal to the yearly cost of attending Notre Dame, provide Notre Dame priests (Fr. Broestle, in our case) or University professors to run the programs on site and the building blocks of a successful program would be in place.
Thanks in no small part to the competency in German I developed in Innsbruck, I eventually met and married a wonderful German girl from Stuttgart nearly 40 years ago. As a result of our marriage I have had the unique opportunity to make the acquaintance of many German-speaking people in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and even Hungary (Donauschwaben). To this day, however, when visiting Europe I still feel most at home in “meinem zweiten Heimatsland Oesterreich.”
Please consider — or reconsider, OIS administrators — the impact certain programs may have on the lives of your students. Not everything can be measured in successful careers or in dollars and cents. Some things can only be measured by the heart and by common sense.
Class of 1969