Notes & News, diciembre 2017
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From the President
One hundred twenty-five years ago, in late 1892, the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the formation of the International Institute for Girls in Spain. Outgrowth of a missionary effort, the International Institute was the brainchild of Alice Gordon Gulick, a graduate of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, later Mount Holyoke College, one of the first institutions of higher learning for women in the United States. Although Mrs. Gulick traveled to Spain for the missionary enterprise she would share with her new husband William, her religious faith was accompanied by a strong belief in the power of higher education to create a new type of spiritual and moral woman. Arriving in Spain in 1871, when almost two-thirds of the population was illiterate, she began to understand the particularly unfortunate state of education for girls and women. Over time, Mrs. Gulick established a school of her own, with the idea of bringing the best American educational methods and ideas to Spain so that Spanish girls and women could enjoy teaching of the highest quality. Mrs. Gulick’s dedication and the success of her students won her allies among leading Spanish educators and in the U.S., particularly among American college women. When the new International Institute was incorporated as a nonsectarian charitable corporation, Mrs. Gulick hoped to make it the “Mount Holyoke of Spain.” In 1903, the International Institute moved from northern Spain to Madrid to play a more effective role in the renovation of education in Spain.
Mrs. Gulick lived up to the challenge issued to women by Mount Holyoke’s founder, Mary Lyon: “Go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things.” Today, long after Mrs. Gulick’s death in 1903, the International Institute has attempted to meet that challenge and to follow the model of educational and cultural exchange between the U.S. and Spain that she established, while still addressing issues of interest to women and girls.
Today, in its 125th anniversary year, the International Institute still strives “to accomplish great things.” We are particularly happy to continue making contributions to education in Spain through the Institute’s work with teachers from the Comunidad de Madrid, with collaboration from the Comunidad and the American Space Madrid. In 2017, U.S. master teachers from Massachusetts and New York offered Madrid teachers ideas about classroom management and pedagogy through courses at the Institute, followed by classroom visits and coaching this fall. Our partnerships with individual public schools and colegios concertados also permit us to bring American teaching styles and North American English and cultural content to Spanish classrooms to children ranging from pre-school to high school.
The International Institute has furthered its dedication to educational innovation by expanding its English Program offerings with a full range of courses in American Cultural Studies. These courses combine sophisticated subject matter with an opportunity for advanced and intermediate students to improve their mastery of spoken and written English. This year, for the first time, ACS courses are being offered at a Spanish university, through our agreement with the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.
Creating ties with major Spanish cultural institutions has long been part of the Institute’s legacy. The International Institute has established links with the Teatro Real, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Universidad Carlos III in order to collaborate on projects concerning expressions of American culture, such as the upcoming productions of “Dead Man Walking” and “Street Scene” at the Teatro Real. In the spring, we expect to share contemporary ideas about university teaching during a colloquium with our colleagues at the Carlos III.
As the Institute celebrates this important anniversary, one “great thing” that we would like to accomplish is to ensure that the International Institute remains the reference point for sharing American education and culture in Madrid. We welcome ideas from the Institute community in Madrid and in the U.S. about the exchange of educational and cultural ideas between the U.S. and Spain. We invite anyone with suggestions for new projects or programs for the Institute to share them with us—through me or other members of the Board of Directors or through Pilar Piñón, Executive Director in Madrid.
I wish you all a Happy Holiday season and a healthy and peaceful New Year. We will “attempt great things” in 2018, and we hope you will join us!