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Released February 13, 2003

Opening ceremony set Saturday


PONTLEVOY, France – Nearly 50 students from The University of Southern Mississippi and 15 other institutions across several states will kick off a second "European Semester in France" Saturday with an official ceremony at the historic abbey where the program is taking place.

"We sense an understanding of the shared values of home, hearth, health, individual self-esteem and social democracy that have long undergirded our common bond – even in times when the affairs of the world have threatened to create temporary chasms of misunderstanding and disagreement," Dr. Tim Hudson, Southern Miss Gulf Coast provost, said in remarks prepared for delivery during a special convocation at the 1,000-year-old Benedictine abbey at Pontlevoy.

Others scheduled to participate in the ceremony were Pontlevoy Mayor Christian Goemaere; state College Board member Scott Ross of West Point; former French Ambassador Georges-Marie Chenu, who attended school at the abbey some 60 years ago; Dr. Doug Mackman, Southern Miss associate professor of history and director of the Abbey Program; and Camille Millet of the Southern Miss staff at Pontlevoy, who is involved in developing community service and service-learning activities in the region for U.S. students and faculty.

Forty-seven students will participate in the 2003 spring semester version of a study-abroad program that was launched last fall by Southern Miss's College of International and Continuing Education. Faculty members are drawn from Southern Miss and a cross section of other institutions of higher learning. Southern Miss heads a consortium of 14 institutions that participate in the Abbey Program.

"I think it will be nice to actually meet the people of Pontlevoy, who we'll see on the streets each day," said student Mary Lesch, a participant from the University of Kentucky.

The class will include 17 students from Southern Miss. The remainder will come from Midwestern University, the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, Wayne State, University of Kentucky, University of Wisconsin at Stout, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Loyola Marymount, Madonna, Mississippi University for Women, Mary Washington College, Ohio State University, Roger Williams, University of California at Santa Clara and University of Missouri at Kansas City.

"We're looking forward to another terrific semester at the abbey," said Susan Steen, Southern Miss director of international programs. "Participants in the inaugural semester of the Abbey Program last fall described the experience as ‘magical' and ‘life-changing.' We believe our current students will find their program equally rewarding, and we look forward to hearing about their experiences."

Steen said students participating in the program are matched with host families during their stay and also will experience a week of intensive study in Paris. Pontlevoy is located in the heart of the french chateaux and wine country known as the Loire Valley, just over an hour's drive from Paris.

Students will have another opportunity for travel at the mid-semester break when they visit other European countries that provide resources for their study. Steen said the Abbey Program is based on the American model of university instruction, but with a European focus. Courses are taught in English, with the exception of French language courses taught by French natives.

The Pontlevoy Abbey was begun in 1034. Other buildings on the grounds recently have been adapted for instruction and housing of students with the aid of a $1 million grant from the provincial French government. During an opening ceremony last fall, local townspeople repeatedly expressed their pleasure that the historic landmark has been renovated and brought back to life for the Southern Miss study-abroad program.

"You are wise to be here," Hudson, a Purvis native and former dean of the Southern Miss College of International and Continuing Education, told students assembled for the Pontlevoy convocation in his prepared address. "Those of us who cherish your odyssey send you into the abbey and indeed into this great continent with this admonition: history will judge us all not by the nations we vanquish, or the technology we create, or the wealth we amass, but by the successes of our citizen diplomats."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM