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European-American Topics - Education - Seattle Pacific University

The old and new world can learn from each other

By Martina Law
Published February 2004

In February 2004, Seattle Pacific University opened its doors for the 21st Annual European Studies Symposium. Sponsored by the European Studies Faculty, the Division of Humanities and the College of Arts and Science of SPU, the Symposium receives support from the SPU Society of Fellows and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.  

Looking at the Symposium program was enough to see that the agenda promised to be as diverse and fascinating as Europe itself.  

It started more than two decades ago, as a way for students at SPU to show their final project in European Studies. In addition to presenting their own projects, it was a way to highlight areas of European Studies to the public. Years later, the European Studies Symposium has grown significantly, featuring numerous European Studies students and distinguished faculty presenters.  

At this year’s Symposium, the keynote speaker was Rick Steves, whose presentation on “Europe on Purpose” drew hundreds of people into the hall. Other presentations addressed a variety of key issues on European politics, arts, and languages. One of the lectures was Dr. Resat Kasaba’s presentation on “The EU and Turkey: The Elusive Prize”. Dr. Kasaba, from the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies, drew an amazingly comprehensive picture of Turkey’s history and its wish to join the European Union. 

The Director of the European Studies Symposium is Dr. Michael Macdonald, Professor of European Studies/German and Philosophy, and an exquisite language duelist who provided a clear insight of the SPU European Studies. He noted that the four languages involved in European Studies are Russian, Spanish, French and German, with interest in Spanish ‘booming’. The number of students majoring in Spanish has grown enormously, whereas there has been a decline in German and Russian majors. 

Macdonald’s passion for Europe goes back decades. “I studied Spanish and did well”, he said. “I studied French and did well.” German didn’t come as easily as the two Romantic languages. He decided to go to Heidelberg for a year. There he fell in love with the medieval town and its culture, but mostly with German composers such as Wagner, Brahms, and Beethoven. Over the years that passed, he fell in love with all of Europe. He is a strong believer that European countries can learn from each other, and the ‘old world’ from the new, and vice versa.  

Macdonald wants to emphasize two goals while teaching his students. The first is to give them a deep understanding of modern Europe and the European Union. The second is to provide them with a thorough knowledge of great contributors to the historical formation of modern Europe. His ideas can definitely be applied to the European Studies Symposium’s larger purpose, to inform the public on European matters. 


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