HATTIESBURG -- A
study-abroad program at The University of Southern Mississippi examining
Austria's place in the history of Europe, from its days as a powerful
monarchy to its role as a neutral country during the Cold War, marked
its 20th anniversary this year.
The program, offered to undergraduate and graduate
students under the auspices of the Southern Miss Center for International
and Continuing Education, is titled "Austria in the Twentieth
Century" and is based in Vienna. Students can earn up to four
hours of academic credit from the program.
Southern Miss history professor Dr. Glenn T. Harper
serves as director of the program, and said in the last 20 years
the course has given participating students a unique perspective
on central Europe. "It's a wonderful city," Harper said
of Vienna. "It's a great opportunity for students to learn
about and be exposed to another culture."
The course, conducted in part by Austrian academicians
and journalists, examines the final years of the Hapsburg Empire;
World War I and its aftermath; the creation of the First Republic;
the path to fascist dictatorship, World War II and its legacy; and
the social, economic and political institutions of contemporary
Although the country remained neutral as a condition
agreed upon by the Allies following the end of World War II, Harper
said that Austria was pro-western, and remains so today.
"A lot of western money went into rebuilding
Austria (after WWII)," Harper said. "A lot of Austrians
have told me that the Marshal Plan (American effort to assist Europe
following WWII) saved their lives."
Because of its neutrality, Austria served as a kind
of diplomatic connection point between East and West during the
Cold War, as well as unofficial trade between capitalist and communist
Program lectures are supplemented by visits to places
of historical and cultural interest, both within Vienna and other
areas of Austria, including the imperial homes of members of the
former Austrian monarchy.
Some of the noteworthy historic sites toured by students
include the Schoenbrunn Palace, a hunting lodge and summer palace
built in 1600 that was a favorite residence of the emperor, and
Vienna's iconic St. Stephen's Cathedral, considered the 'mother
church' of Catholicism in the city.
"It's as impressive as any structure in Vienna,"
Harper said of St. Stephen's.
Students taking part in the program live in the Jesuit-run
Kardinal Konig Haus, a conference center where students also attend
lectures. "The staff there has been so nice to us in the last
20 years that we've made use of the facility," Harper said.
This past summer, Harper and his students were presented
with a plaque marking 'Twenty Years of Mississippi' at Kardinal
Konig Haus, along with a ceremonial key to the facility. Harper
and his students also presented a letter from Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour
to the facility's staff, recognizing the two-decade relationship
formed by the program. Rep. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall, a Southern
Miss graduate, assisted in requesting the letter from the governor.
"In the past, the students taking part in the
program have also visited Prague, once one of the imperial capitals
of the former Hapsburg Empire and now capital of the Czech Republic,"
said Susan Steen, director of the CICE. "While in Prague, students
have visited palaces, churches, museums and sites associated with
the Cold War and with the downfall of dictatorship."
Chad Daniels, a Southern Miss alumni who has traveled
twice to Vienna on the program in 1992 and 1997, said the experience
is good for students who are not only interested in history but
want to learn more about international relations and global economics.
"It's a fantastic academic program," said
Daniels, who now serves as director of the Mississippi Armed Forces
Museum at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg. "The lectures are in-depth,
and students get to learn not only about history but see how a smaller
national economy like Austria's has merged with larger economies
in Europe (to form the European Union) and gain a better understanding
of today's global economy."
For more information about the Austrian Studies Program,
contact the Southern Miss Center for International and Continuing
Education at (601) 266-4344.