April 13, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 14

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    French government gives $1 million to establish new center

    By William Harms
    News Office

    The University is receiving a $1 million challenge grant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France to establish an on-campus France-Chicago Center to promote scholarly exchanges between members of the University community and researchers in France.

    The grant, which will be matched by another $1 million raised by the University, marks the first time the French government has ever made such a donation.

    The agreement establishing the arrangement was signed at a special ceremony Tuesday, April 11, at the University’s Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago. François Bujon de l’Estang, French ambassador to the United States, signed for the French government, and President Sonnenschein signed for the University.

    A reception was held immediately after the signing for Chicago civic leaders who have become interested in supporting the enterprise.

    “The University of Chicago has long been interested in close ties with France. Distinguished scholars from France have served on our faculty, and in 1993, the French government helped create the Chicago Group on Modern France, an interdisciplinary organization that has generated a constant stream of intellectual activity between France and Chicago,” said Robert Morrissey, Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures and an organizer of the Chicago Group on Modern France.

    The $2 million raised for the France-Chicago Center will provide an endowment to support a wide range of links between the University and research centers in France, particularly in the areas of the sciences and the humanities. The agreement also calls for the establishment of business partnerships. Specifically, the center will:

    • Sponsor French academics as visiting scholars to the University and encourage contacts between University students and faculty members and French researchers and scholars

    • Engage in joint faculty research projects between University of Chicago scholars and colleagues in France

    • Provide research fellowships to University graduate students pursuing research in France in a variety of disciplines

    • Sponsor academic and public lectures, seminars and conferences

    • Promote collaborative research and educational activities with business partners and other interested organizations outside the University

    In a separate initiative, the University is establishing a new Center in Paris. That center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2001.

    “The Center in Paris will provide a venue that parallels the academic and scholarly exchanges on Chicago’s campus with programs for College students, graduate fellows, faculty and alumni,” said John Boyer, Dean of the College and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History.

    Among the French scholars who have been part of the University faculty are philosopher Paul Ricoeur and historian François Furet. Current faculty member Marc Fumaroli, Professor in Romance Languages & Literatures, is a member of l’Académie Française, France’s most distinguished intellectual organization.

    In recognition of the University’s commitment to high-quality research and its close relations with French scholars, the French government designated the University to be one of six centers of excellence in French studies in the United States in 1993, when the Chicago Group on Modern France was organized.

    Since its inception, the CGMF has developed programs and partnerships throughout the University’s College, divisions and professional schools, as well as with universities and research institutions in France and with schools and teachers of French in the Chicago area. In addition to Morrissey, other organizers of the CGMF are Jan Goldstein, Professor in History, and Pierre-André Chiappori, Professor in Economics.

    Chiappori said a visit last fall that was co-organized by the CGMF and the Club Pangloss, a French think tank, is an example of the fruitful exchanges that can take place between French and American scholars and civic leaders. “A group of French academics, businessmen, civil servants and government figures, including a former French minister for housing and construction, Pierre-André Perissol, came to study the recent reforms of the Chicago Public Schools system,” he said.

    The tour included meetings and discussions with city officials and University scholars as well as visits to several public schools. On the last day of the tour, a conference and roundtable were organized. “I stayed in touch with the French group, and I can say they were enthusiastic about their stay. They learned a lot from what they saw and heard. In addition, fruitful links were established at various levels.

    “For instance, James Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, gave a talk titled ‘Policies to Foster Human Capital,’ which had a deep impact on the French group. Mr. Perissol, who has set up an association in France aimed at developing and promoting exchanges about experiences in the field of social policy, is currently in contact with professor Heckman, whose expertise is widely recognized,” Chiappori added.

    Center in Paris planned for fall 2001