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International Institute Student Association Holds Open House

International Institute Student Association Holds Open House

New group for students in eight interdepartmental degree programs launchs common organization.

Leslie Evans Email LeslieEvans

Over the years a number of international-oriented interdepartmental degree programs have grown up at UCLA as a sign of faculty and student interest in the world outside the United States. Today there are a total of eight, some of which give undergraduate degrees and some MAs or even PhDs. Some, in European, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies have existed for many years and have been linked closely to research centers in their area. International Development Studies led a life of its own for a long time. Others have been housed at the College of Letters and Science, linked to the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. When the International Studies and Overseas Programs, ISOP, the predecessor of the International Institute, was made a part of the College in 2002 all of these programs were consolidated in ISOP, renamed the International Institute early in 2003. As the Institute has grown, these programs, including the newer East Asian and Southeast Asian studies degrees, have joined the earlier interdepartmental programs. Today for the first time they have a common organizational structure and administration, and are guided by two professional counselors on the Institute staff, Gaby Solomon and Caroline Ramirez-La Faso. This growing common identity resulted last quarter in the formation of a student organization to bring the enrollees in these several study areas together for common discussions and activities. Their first activity was a get acquainted open house and ice cream social, held in an Institute conference room January 28.

Some 35 members of the degree programs plus another 8 or 10 faculty and staff attended a spirited get together and laid plans for a number of ongoing activities. Working since the fall quarter last year, the International Institute Student Association already has a chairperson, Nir Barazani Shafir, and a board composed of Alejandra Ponce de Leon, Jimmy Rollins, Fei Yang, Stacy Edgar, and Rachel Richardson, all enrollees in the various international degree programs. The IISA says that while its specific focus is on majors and minors of the International Institute that membership is open to "anyone with an interest in international issues."

The open house began with the students pairing off and asking their partner where they came from, what their major was, and their favorite book or fictional character. Then they went around the room and each student told the group what they had just learned about the person next to them. The most popular books and  characters came from the Lord of the Rings and from the Harry Potter books. Plenty of cookies and ice cream was on hand to smooth the way.

Discussions Planned for Cafe Night

The group planned a number of ongoing activities. One is Cafe Night, to be held at Roma Cafe in the Anderson business school every Monday night at 6:30 pm. For each week a topic for discussion will be announced in advance. For Monday, February 2, the topic is "Harry Potter as a Literary Phenomenon." For February 9 it will be "Superstition in a Chinese Cultural Context."

The student group took volunteers to staff four committees: a social committee, one to establish an online journal, a fund raising committee, and a committee to schedule debates on international topics. Board meetings are to be held every Monday at 5:00 pm in Bunche 10367 and are open to interested students. The group has an email address ( and a temporary website:

In addition to student activities, the open house was addressed briefly by Ruby Bel-Gam, African Studies and International Development Studies bibliographer at the Young Research Library, and by Professor Ann-Christina Lauring Knudsen (History), chair of the European Studies BA degree program, who described her experiences in Europe from growing up in Denmark to living in Germany, Italy, and England. Andrew Apter (History), chair of the African Studies program, which offers an MA and an undergraduate minor, arrived late but was able to have discussions with a number of the students.

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