A University by any Other Name

St. Louis University of Madrid prides itself on being one of the top 100 teaching and research institutions in the United States according to U. S. News and World Report 2009 and among the top five Jesuit universities in the United States.  This information is proudly displayed on its website and in marketing materials obviously directed at students who want an U.S. educational experience while living in Madrid.  There is only an undergraduate program.

The primary language of instruction is English (I feel like I am in an oasis when on campus). There are approximately 110 faculty and 650 students.  Most students are from the U.S. (40%), a quarter is from Spain, and the remaining 35% come from 65 other countries (a strong middle-eastern and North African contingent).  The students’ sound, look and dress like students around the world who have the benefit of attending a private institution with its associated cost.

Except, there is much more fashion statements being made here then normally experienced at SU.  Even though jeans are strong among the Americans, they clearly did not come from Wal-Mart.  Among the Europeans, interestingly designed full stockings, leather knee length boots, and a sweater top that falls just right is de rigueur.  The Muslim women make their statements with Dolce & Gabbana eye wear and I am sure the head wraps are a bit more expensive then the ones I saw for sale in the souk in Amman, Jordan when I was there with the GCP trip.

The U.S. professors are obvious by their general lack of fashion sense.  The Professors from Europe and Canada are noticeable by their suits that are tighter then most U.S. men wore wear and the colors that are a bit brighter then we are used to seeing on men who do not live in LA—my new colleague from Canada had on a light-grey pinstripe suit (purplish pinstripes) with a purple tie and purple socks to match the tie.  Now where at SU would you see that? And not draw any attention!?

Universidad Completense de Madrid was founded in 1293 (I do mean the 13th century, this is not a typo!). It one of the most preeminent public universities in Spain—the government heavily subsidizes public universities. There is a staff of over 11,000 for about 75,000 undergraduate students and 11,000 graduate students. Courses are only taught in Spanish.

The students here are not for the most part fashonistas (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).  They come mostly from the middle class homes that aspire for a better life for their children.  They too sound like students around the world who place their hopes in the ability of a college education to secure them a better, or at least equal chance to earn a living and have a life that comes with the ability to purchase the things that make life comfortable.  Of course they have a wider safety net here so some issues they do not have to worry about.  Healthcare is provided for whether they have a job or not.

If there are issues you want me to address in this blog please feel free to email me at: mdavi3@su.edu.

Hasta Luego.

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 1:26 am  Leave a Comment