Message from the Dean–May 2024

Frances Vavrus
Frances Vavrus, Dean and Vice Provost of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

May is a special month on campus with red tulips in bloom and graduation in the air. Students in their caps and gowns have also blossomed on Bascom Hill, accompanied by proud families who are ready to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduating Badgers. We have many reasons to join in the applause for the students with whom we work in the International Division. Let me highlight a few of them.

First, we’re very proud that UW–Madison has been named the top producer of Peace Corps volunteers for 2023—what an accomplishment! I had the pleasure of attending the Peace Corps brunch a few weeks ago, when our returned PCVs in Madison send off our soon-to-be departing volunteers. With this kind of intergenerational enthusiasm and support, it is no wonder that more than 2,700 Wisconsin graduates have served in the Peace Corps since the program began in 1961, making us second in the nation for all-time volunteers.

We are also delighted that Chandra Chouhan, a graduating International Studies major, was featured in Inside UW because of her work to promote civic engagement among students in the South Asian diaspora. Chandra founded a non-partisan organization to encourage voter registration at UW–Madison and around the country, and the group also translates voting information for Wisconsin residents into Hindi and Punjabi.

Among our returning students, we have reason to celebrate those who have received fellowships to advance their study of languages other than English and to conduct international fieldwork. Nearly 50 students received summer FLAS fellowships through one of the eight Title VI National Resource Centers in our Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS). These students will be studying 27 different languages in countries around the work, including Ecuador, Finland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, and South Korea. We also commend our three Critical Language Scholars, who will immerse themselves in Azerbaijani, Korean, and Swahili through this competitive program offered by the U.S. Department of State.

International fieldwork fellowships have also been offered to 17 students through IRIS. Seven of them have received IRIS Graduate Student Summer Fieldwork awards, and five have been named Scott Kloeck-Jenson Fellows. In addition, IRIS has provided support to five incoming graduate students through the Area and International Studies Awards to support their future international research.

During this moment of tumult on college campuses, including on our own, celebration may seem out of place. However, the accomplishments of our students remind us of the importance of international scholarship and service in building durable solutions for peace. Our recognition of their work does not diminish our focus on the complex world in which we live; rather, it provides inspiration for all of us who believe in the transformational potential of international education and engagement.