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February 12, 2009

UW to open second European campus in Leon, Spain

A royal palace in Leon, Spain will become the second European campus of the UW.

A 10-year agreement signed Tuesday at the UW provides for a 9,000-square-foot facility, rent free, in the Palace of the Conde de Luna, which dates to the 10th century and has housed the royal families of Leon.

“We’re thrilled, absolutely delighted,” said Anthony Geist, chairman of the UW Division of Spanish and Portuguese Studies.

UW President Mark Emmert will participate in opening ceremonies for the new center in May, when the city of Leon is scheduled to complete a $30 million renovation of the palace.

Negotiations for the center began about four years ago but intensified after Ana Mari Cauce, a UW psychology professor, became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and visited Leon with Geist. Cauce signed the agreement with Francisco Javier Fernandez Alvarez, mayor of Leon, in the Regents Room in Gerberding Hall.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to provide our students and faculty a more global education,” Cauce said. “Students and faculty from all over campus — those interested in business, science, international studies, art, Spanish language and culture — should think about Leon as a spot where they can have a conference, a quarter-long course or a summer experience.”

The UW center also provides possibilities for Leon.

“The city saw a new and special opportunity to bring something fresh and exciting,” said Fernando Esteban, Spanish consul in Seattle.

The Leon center follows the one in Rome, which opened in 1984. UW students have attended the University of Leon the last three years, their number growing from an initial 11 to 22 this spring. They live in homes and apartments in the city, which is in the autonomous region of Castile and Leon in northwest Spain.

Housed on three floors in the palace tower, the center will include classrooms, administrative offices and exhibit space. And though the center will be rent free, the UW will pay utilities and maintenance, estimated at $2,000 per month. The city of Leon is identifying donors to help with furnishings, and the UW is negotiating with Pacific Northwest glass artist Dale Chihuly for an opening exhibit.

Local faculty will be hired as appropriate, but UW faculty also will be urged to take students to Leon, and the center will be available to all units of the University.