International Institute renamed, with new structure, renewed mission

Created two decades ago as an umbrella for the area studies centers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the International Institute is undergoing a reorganization and, as of July 1, will take a new name, the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS).

In addition to the name change, the institute and its member centers are making an administrative move. Since the mid-1990s the institute has been administered jointly by the College of Letters and Science and the Division of International Studies, but now the institute and all of its constituent centers will shift administratively into the division.

The division itself has been undergoing restructuring and, as of July 1, will be called The International Division.

These changes are the culmination of more than three years of deliberations and recommendations from two campus-wide faculty/staff committees, charged with evaluating administrative processes and recommending new efficiencies in the division and the institute. Of immeasurable help in this process was a $750,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to the College of Letters and Science to develop and fund new approaches in area and international studies.

“The institute’s new name better reflects its role and organization, as well as clearing up long-standing confusion between the institute and the division,” says Guido Podesta, vice provost and dean of International Studies. The division administers study abroad and internship programs for students, and helps facilitate exchanges and other international agreements, while the institute and its constituent centers mainly foster interdisciplinary research, teaching, and outreach on regions of the world.

“Given their shared international focus, shifting the centers into the division makes sense on both organizational and intellectual levels,” Podesta says.

To ensure greater collaboration

The centers that make up IRIS are: African Studies Program; Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS) Program; Center for East Asia; Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA); European Studies Alliance; Middle East Studies Program; Center for South Asia; and Center for Southeast Asian Studies. More than 400 UW–Madison faculty members are affiliated with these centers. Their degrees, certificates, symposiums, workshops, lectures, courses, scholarships, and fellowships serve thousands of UW–Madison students every year.

IRIS is being structured to ensure a greater degree of collaboration and shared work across centers by center staff, including moving some staff from the centers into IRIS. One of the existing Title VI-supported centers, Global Studies, is being folded into IRIS; the other centers will remain separate units.

A governing council consisting of 12-15 faculty and staff members – plus the associate dean of The International Division as an ex officio member – will be established to provide shared governance for IRIS. Members will represent a range of units across campus, disciplines, and regions.

Sapega, Delehanty to lead IRIS

The division recently conducted searches for a faculty director and executive director to lead IRIS. Ellen W. Sapega and James Delehanty have been selected for those posts, Podesta announced.

Sapega, professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, has been a UW–Madison faculty member since 1989. She is affiliated with three of the institute’s centers: African Studies, European Studies, and Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies. She has served as director of the Center for European Studies (2010-14) and, since 2012, has served as co-director of the International Institute with Yoshiko Herrera, professor of political science.

Sapega received her PhD from Vanderbilt University. Her research interests center on Portuguese modernism, memory, visual culture, and contemporary Portuguese and Lusophone African literature and culture.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to help shape the Institute for Regional and International Studies, and I look forward to promoting collaboration and synergy across the centers,” says Sapega.

She adds, “While part of IRIS’s mission is to help its centers extend their reach to areas of campus not traditionally associated with international studies, we also will work to identify new funding sources for international activities and to support teaching and outreach in regional and international studies across all disciplines.”

James Delehanty is a geographer who has worked in various capacities at UW–Madison since 1987, most recently as associate director of the African Studies Program. His Ph.D. is from Minnesota.

“In a really important sense, this new Institute for Regional and International Studies is not new at all,” Delehanty says. “IRIS is constituted of its parts – the strong, faculty-governed, interdisciplinary area studies centers that have helped make UW-Madison a powerhouse of internationally oriented research and training for more than 50 years.”

Working together, looking forward

Working with division leadership and colleagues in the centers, Sapega and Delehanty will take on the tasks of completing the IRIS reorganization.

Delehanty explains, “What’s changing with IRIS is that the centers will be working more closely together. We’ll be more cost-effective by combining administrative functions. And as the Mellon Foundation recently helped us discover, we can be more cost-effective and simultaneously venture out in important new directions.”

“More than ever, our country needs real knowledge, sophisticated knowledge, about how things work and do not work in other lands,” he adds. “IRIS will help its centers give UW–Madison faculty members and students the support they need to ensure Wisconsin’s continued leadership in the generation of theory and practical knowledge about the world as a system of parts.”

by Kerry G. Hill