The photo features the current Ambassador to Spain, Mr. James Costos, Jean Choi (MIT ’09) and Prof. Margery Resnick, President of the International Institute in Spain inaugurating the “American Space” Program at the International Institute. This Program will further expand the Institute’s central mission of sharing American literature, music, film, art and history with the Spanish public. The International Institute Foundation in Spain, established by an Act of the Massachusetts Legislature in 1892, is the oldest U.S. cultural and educational institution in Spain. The Institute was organized by Massachusetts educators and philanthropists dedicated to advancing the cause of education for women in Spain. The Institute grew out of the Protestant missionary efforts in Spain of William and Alice Gordon Gulick during the First Spanish Republic. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Mrs. Gulick created an American-style school for girls and young women that caught the attention of progressive Spanish educators and attracted young American university women to Spain to work on her project. In order to have more influence in Spanish educational circles, the Institute moved to Madrid from San Sebastián in 1903. Construction on its current building began in 1905, using funds collected all across the United States, particularly donations from American university women. The building was opened in 1910, and dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Gulick, who had died in September 1903 after working tirelessly for over 30 years to realize her dream of a “Mount Holyoke for Spain.”
The International Institute had the first lending library in Spain. It opened laboratories for university women at a time when female students were not welcome in Spanish university labs. From the outset, the Institute taught English to its students. It participated in one of the first experiments in coeducational primary education in Spain. It collaborated with Spanish institutions encouraging the modernization of education in Spain. The Institute offered the first university-level courses in library science and in psychology ever taught in Spain. The first organized American college study abroad program in Spain from Smith College (1930) was housed at the International Institute. During the Franco dictatorship, the International Institute was an island of free expression where academics denied positions in Spanish universities were able to teach.
Today, the International Institute hosts study abroad programs from Boston University, Hamilton College, Stanford University, Syracuse University, SUNY and the University of Southern California during the academic year and summer programs from the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University, among others. The Institute offers American English language and culture courses to over a thousand Spaniards from kindergartners through adults seeking to improve language skills and to study American culture every year. The Institute also offers cultural programming and operates its Library for the Madrid public, sponsors an annual women’s colloquium, and runs the American Space Madrid program, that, in collaboration with the American Embassy, offers programs and information about the U.S. Jean Choi, an MIT alum, was selected as the first Director of this program.
You can read more about the Institute and its activities at http://www.iie.es.
Written by Margery Resnick