Kennesaw State to expand global footprint to Italy with permanent educational site

Piazza Grande in La Fortezza  of Montepulciano

Board of Regents approves rental in historic Montepulciano for growing study-abroad programs

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 16, 2012) — Kennesaw State University will open its first permanent international education site in Montepulciano, Italy, enabling the expansion of the study-abroad programs the university has conducted in that historic Tuscan city for the past 15 years.   

Under the rental agreement approved this week by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State will occupy 4,000 square feet in the soon-to-be restored and renovated historic Fortezza Poliziana beginning in fall 2014. Funding for the $520,000, 25-year agreement will be provided by private donations and the Kennesaw State University Foundation.

“This represents a major milestone for Kennesaw State’s international initiatives and our commitment to providing students high-quality, global learning opportunities,” said KSU President Daniel S. Papp. “Not only have we found a long-term home for one of our fastest-growing study-abroad programs, we are expanding the Kennesaw State brand internationally—an exciting development as we approach the university’s 50thanniversary.”

This week, Kennesaw State also earned the distinction of being named among the top campuses in the nation for student participation in study-abroad programs.  The Institute of International Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, annually publishes the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.  The just-released 2012 report ranked KSU 8thamong the country’s top 40 master’s degree-granting institutions in study-abroad participation. During the 2010-2011 academic year, 734 Kennesaw State students studied abroad.

Kennesaw State’s study-abroad programs in Montepulciano have grown from serving eight students in
1998, to 76 in 2011.  Nearly 1,100 students and faculty have participated in study-abroad programs in Montepulciano since the program began. Participants include Kennesaw State’s students and faculty, as well as students and faculty from other University System of Georgia institutions with whom KSU partners. 

To date, Kennesaw State officials have rented four classrooms in an unused wing of an elementary school outside of Montepulciano’s city walls to provide the program’s offerings. The Montepulciano study-abroad programs typically include courses in art, history, literature, Italian and political science, through two regularly scheduled five-week summer sessions and occasional shorter fall sessions.  An intensive, 12-week foreign language program also is scheduled to begin in fall 2013.

When finalized, the agreement will provide space in the Fortezza Poliziana for five classrooms, a program office, residential quarters for the program director, and a teaching kitchen for a proposed culinary program. The new facility will allow the program to offer longer, regularly scheduled fall sessions, shorter sessions during the May and August mini-mesters, as well as short-term courses during December.

Thomas H. Keene, Kennesaw State professor of history and a study-abroad program director in Montepulciano, is ecstatic about the plans and prospects for the new space. “The classrooms in the Fortezza will be a massive upgrade and will offer considerable advantages, including the safety and security of being in the central city,” Keene stated.

The development of the rental agreement followed a visit to Kennesaw State University’s Georgia campus last February by officials of the City of Montepulciano and representatives of a consortium of more than 80 wine producers — the Consorzio Del Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. The visit resulted in a resolution to complete negotiations with the University and the Kennesaw State University Foundation to provide the financial incentive to undertake the renovation and restoration of the Fortezza.  The rental agreement is the catalyst that will launch the project to restore the historic 18thcentury fortress. 

When the project is completed, Kennesaw State and the wine consortium will each occupy most of an entire floor with common spaces reserved for public events, conferences and exhibitions, including those staged by Kennesaw State’s study-abroad faculty and students.

“We are honored to be a part of this historic partnership that will provide a phenomenal setting for our students to learn and engage globally, with the added benefit of witnessing our partners in this endeavor restore an important historical landmark in Italy’s beautiful Tuscan region,” said Papp.

Currently, University officials are considering proposals for a Great Books Honors Program in Montepulciano; as well as a program of non-credit short courses in art — painting, drawing, photography, print-making — and in Italian cooking, wine-tasting and art history, among others.

“The programming possibilities for this site are virtually limitless,” said Keene, who has co-ordinated KSU’s Montepulciano effort from the very beginning.  “It presents a great opportunity to attract even more students to study abroad, and also allows us to offer these incredible learning experiences to our alumni and the larger community.”

--Sabbaye McGriff