Virginia Tech has been approved to establish a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence, the 11th currently active in the United States and the first in Virginia.

The European Commission awards the competitive honor to select universities internationally. Successful applicants must demonstrate commitment and expertise on European Union subjects.

Based in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and officially known as theCenter for European Union and Trans-European Space Studies — A Jean Monnet Center of Excellence,” the Virginia Tech initiative will support research on European affairs broadly defined. Students will gain knowledge of the European Union and its external relations, including transatlantic relations. Further, the center will foster dialogue between Virginia Tech experts and policy makers, and it will educate regional policymakers, K–12 students and educators, and other community members on the structures and policies of the European Union.

As the name of the center suggests, its research and teaching emphasis is not only on the European Union but also on geographic regions in which the union’s activities have a significant impact. Examples of those areas include relations with the non–European Union members of NATO, the members of the European Free Trade Area, the countries of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership and Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and the countries with which the union has established special trade relations.

“The Center for European Union and Trans-European Space Studies will benefit the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the university as a whole,” said Yannis Stivachtis, a professor in the Department of Political Science. “The center will provide greater visibility to the university and its outstanding programs at the national and international levels. It will also add to Virginia Tech’s status as a global research and land-grant university.”

Last spring, the European Commission provided Virginia Tech with a Jean Monnet Chair — a crucial step in the process of earning a Jean Monnet Center. Stivachtis serves as the Jean Monnet Chair in addition to his roles as associate chair in the Department of Political Science, director of the International Studies Program, and university coordinator for the Diplomacy Lab program.

The Center for European Union and Trans-European Space will offer interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary courses and degree programs covering social sciences and humanities and will be open to students in all disciplines across the university.

 Offerings will eventually include a multidisciplinary major and minor in European studies, and an experiential learning minor in European engagement. The center’s research programs will also be interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, including not only humanities and social sciences, but also business, engineering, and other sciences.

“Earning a Jean Monnet Center is a prestigious achievement for the department and the university, one that required a collaborative effort across Virginia Tech,” said Timothy Luke, chair of the Department of Political Science. “We are thrilled to move forward with establishing and developing the Center for European Union and Trans-European Space Studies.”

Jean Monnet was one of the founders of the European Union in the 1950s. The Jean Monnet Program is part of Erasmus+, the European Union’s education, youth, and sports initiative. 

Virginia Tech joins universities in California; Colorado; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; North Carolina; Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Wisconsin in being homes to Jean Monnet Centers.

“We are so honored that the European Union has chosen Virginia Tech to be one of the handful of U.S. colleges and universities who will work to nourish trans-European academic and economic partnerships,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The college looks forward to working with colleagues across the university in making the center a resounding success.”

Written by Andrew Adkins