July 1st - the key date to the start of a new area at MUDEC! After 18 years of loyal service as assistant director/dean, what an exciting and challenging opportunity to be able to bring a personal touch for the next 1-2 years to a Center that during the last 52 years has been the “Jewel in the Crown” of Miami University (as it was called by Miami President Emeritus Dr. David Hodge).
I never dreamed of being in this position when I started my MUDEC career in August 2002 after 14 years in high school and adult education. With my previous experience at an ISO-certified education center and the 18 years spent in the Administration of our Center, I feel up to the challenge … but, oh yes, in the meantime we have all gotten to know Mr. (or is it Ms. - who knows?) Covid-19 and here we have a new Interim Executive Director with an empty Center.
On March 13th, our students had to suddenly return home, whereas I was still in the States at that time. We probably passed each other somewhere in the sky as I returned but we had no real chance to say goodbye. So, this is the occasion to wish everyone from the MUDEC Spring 2020 class well in your future studies!
I have to also say goodbye to two local Faculty members: Anthony Smith-Meyers decided some time ago that the time had come to start a more travel-oriented retirement period and that he should reduce his commitments. Anthony, if Covid prevents you from traveling, do not hesitate to return to MUDEC, our students would love to see you back in class. Dr. Emile Haag spent a little more time at MUDEC than I did, as he started his teaching career in January 1969. He decided that the time has come to stop teaching, a decision that I profoundly regret because Emile has always been a person whom I looked up to and I can now proudly say that we are good friends. Emile was the Assistant Director at the Athénée high school when I was a student, he was the Director when my eldest son was a student, and he has accompanied me along the way in my 2 professional lives, before and at MUDEC. Thank you for everything Emile and together with Guy de Muyser I am proud to have such great friends.
Well, a Director without students? A 52 year-old Center not able to function because of a virus that controls the world? No, that cannot be, the show must go on!
When we officially got the news last week that travelers from the US were still not going to be allowed to enter the EU, I got in touch with the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Office here in Luxembourg and very rapidly we came to the agreement that our Center needed to live on and Luxembourg adopted the recommendation of the EU to make arrangements for students. This way we had the green light on the Luxembourg side and very rapidly we also got the GO from the Miami Administration and Provost Jason Osborne. It is thus my pleasure to announce that the show will go on in the Fall!
Very early in our many virtual meetings during the previous months, we had agreed that we would organize the semester calendar to finish before Thanksgiving, limiting the program to 90 days and thus avoiding having the students go through the process to get a Residence Permit. Now we are reaping the benefits of this decision: we have a flexible program and whereas many universities canceled their education abroad programs a long time ago, we could leave the possibility open of maintaining ours much longer. Now that we have the green light, only a little more than 6 weeks before the start, we can make the last preparations to welcome our new students to a château that has been Covid-secured. The students will see how strictly rules and measures are observed here in Luxembourg and they will need to quickly adjust to wearing masks in the public areas and the narrow corridors at the château. They will learn to keep the appropriate physical distance at lunch, sitting at tables of maximum 4 in the Grand Hall, having to pick up their trays individually, and not having access to an open salad bar. They will also sit in classrooms with only 15 chairs instead of 35 in order to respect the 6-feet of physical distance. Of course, there will be hand sanitizer distributors all over the château and students will be required to use integrated dispensers with masks, sanitizer, paper towels, etc., that we have put in place.
Thanks to our Alumni, we have scholarships in place allowing us to set up Discovery Tours in and around Luxembourg. Our students will be advised to limit independent travel, limit stays in youth hostels, and limit exposure to public transportation whenever possible. Therefore, we reinitiated having classes on Fridays - not on every Friday though. More than ever, we want to show this special group of students the beauties of our greater region, taking them on hikes to the Mullerthal, showing them different areas of the country in more detail, but also organizing day trips and overnight trips to the SaarLorLux area, Germany, France, and Belgium. And why not the beautiful little villages and seaside in the Netherlands, places that students never get to know if they only go to Amsterdam?
The small but effective team around me - Andy, Anne, Joseph, Marie, Meliha, Mena, Nadine, Philippe, Stéphane - is highly motivated and after nearly 4 months of Sleeping Beauty, they are eager to welcome with me a great new crowd. The show will go on!