Due to the importance of improved global understanding, university administrators are restructuring Virginia Tech's Center for European Studies and Architecture (CESA) in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, with the goal of making the center part of the educational experience for more undergraduate and graduate students.

"CESA can be invaluable to the university community, so I have taken steps to consolidate its financial footing; to focus administration of its programs; to ensure better communications between the center and the Blacksburg campus; and to undertake a significant program of maintenance and improvement," said C. Clark Jones, vice provost for Outreach and International Affairs. The restructuring was prompted by the resignation late last year of former director Thanasi Moulakis.

According to Jones, a three-pronged approach will be used to integrate CESA more effectively within the university. Ron Daniel, associate provost for undergraduate education, will assume additional duties as academic director of CESA; and Paul Knox, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, will serve as "lead dean." Daniela Doninelli will be on-site managing director, responsible for day-to-day operations in Switzerland. An operations liaison will work in the Office of International Research, Education, and Development under S. K. DeDatta, OIRED director. There is a resident advisor on site. The entire operation reports to the vice provost for Outreach and International Affairs.

As academic director of CESA, Daniel will devote 50 percent of his time to the center in Switzerland and will spend about half of that time on site in Riva San Vitale, including time at the beginning of each semester. He will be the academic liaison, both between the center and the Blacksburg campus and between the center and other institutions in Europe. Daniel has been a supporter of study abroad since his years as an undergraduate architecture student at Virginia Tech when he traveled on a study abroad program developed by Lucy and Olivio Ferrari, who were the first two directors of the center. "If a student can experience a semester abroad, it has the potential to be life-changing," he said. "CESA is truly a learning experience that embodies the university ideal of educating the whole person."

In reference to the opportunities ahead, Daniel said, "What excites me about this is that Paul Knox and I can work closely together with the faculty and colleges to support existing programs as well as develop new ones. My frequent presence in Blacksburg will greatly enhance the opportunity to engage in needed preparation and follow up on programs. A fundamental objective of the university will continue to be the development of CESA as a learning community." Daniel will also collaborate with staff at Swiss universities in the region to enrich CESA's program offerings. He will devote the remaining 50 percent of his time at Virginia Tech to his position as associate provost for undergraduate education, a post he has held since 1997.

Virginia Tech's approach to CESA has primarily been to encourage faculty to develop programs here in Blacksburg and then accompany students to Switzerland. On-site adjunct faculty members and guest speakers provide language instruction and some special programs. This process makes it easier to plan a semester, or partial semester at CESA as part of an ongoing Virginia Tech program or course.

Knox, who is a University Distinguished Professor, will advocate within the deans' group for the center and will convene a committee of senior leaders to do strategic planning for CESA. Knox is enthusiastic about his new role: "The center provides an important margin of excellence in the learning environment that we are able to offer our students. It is a wonderful facility and I am very pleased to play a role in support of our activities there. I know that Professor Daniel and Ms Doninelli are dedicated to the success of CESA, and I look forward to working with them."

Managing Director Daniela Doninelli is a Swiss national who lives in the nearby village of Meride. She has held an administrative position at the center since 1994 and was formerly operations manager and financial officer at CESA. Doninelli is an elected member of her village's town council.

University Architect Scott Hurst will supervise maintenance repairs to the centuries-old villa that houses CESA. Most maintenance needs relate to weatherproofing and will help to cut heating costs. The villa lies within the historic district of Riva San Vitale, and repairs must preserve the historic character of the structure.

The facility itself provides a learning experience for students. The villa, which has three stories devoted to classroom and living space, was built just before 1800 and is known as Casa Maderni. The main building, an adjoining library, and former stables enclose three sides of a fenced and gated courtyard. Frescoes decorate many of the villa's walls and ceilings. Outside, spacious terraced gardens fill the rest of the walled compound, typical of European construction of the period. The university rents another house a short distance away to provide additional lodging facilities. Lucy Ferrari, widow of founding CESA director Olivio Ferrari, and herself a former director, lives nearby and takes an active part in the quality and life of the center. "She is a wonderful asset to CESA and I greatly value her presence," said Daniel.

Located along the route of an ancient Roman road, Riva San Vitale is in the canton of Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland at the southwestern end of Lake Lugano, and the culture and food are Italian in character. The town, with its population of only 2,293, adjoins the town of Capolago (pop. 741), where there is a railroad station. Riva is about 25 kilometers from the Italian border and is less than an hour by train from Milan, Italy.

"More than 1,000 students have experienced CESA so far," Jones said. "We hope to see those numbers increase rapidly."