The Peder Sather Center for Advanced Studies - at Berkeley
The establishment of a dedicated Norwegian center at Berkeley is a big step closer to reality after further funding was confirmed, and the announcement was attended by HRH Crown Prince Haakon on a visit to his alma mater outside San Francisco.
Sather Tower Chimes to Action
On the 25th of October 2011 at 13:00 the giant, nearly 5-ton heavy Great Bear Bell at Sather Tower chimed on the hour. Nearly 125 years after the death of the Norwegian emigrant Peder Sather, our own Professor Liv Duesund could proclaim the establishment of a center in his name at the prestigious University of California Berkeley (UCB).
The story of the Norwegian farmer's son from Odalen who moved into banking and became one of the founders of Berkeley in the 1800s is both long and interesting, and Karin Sveen's biography is recommended reading. Peder Sather and his second wife (Jane Krohm Read) donated funds to Berkeley for both a grand southern entrance to the university and the aforementioned bell tower, as well as three Sather-chairs - one in classical literature and two in history.
Now a dedicated Center is opening in his name in the autumn of 2012 at UC Berkeley. HRH the Crown Prince Haakon and several ministers as well as Norwegian and U.S. media, scholars and other dignitaries visited Berkeley on the occasion of the announcement of the establishment of the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Studies. We took the opoprtunity to congratulate the ever-energetic entrepreneur Professor Liv Duesund from the Department of Special Needs Education at UV.
"This is a great achievement, Liv - how did it come about?"
Thank you. Well, so far we have worked for over ten years to improve our cooperation with Berkeley, both in terms of research and student exchanges. Our experience is broad and solid in this regard, and we have an excellent foundation for cooperation.
Professor Trond Petersen (UiO-educated Professor of Sociology at UCB - ed.), who started it all, and I have worked with student exchanges and research introductions since 1997, and with the establishment of the Peder Sather Center since the spring of 2006. It has been a struggle against both financial crises and systemic inertia in which we have had plenty of practice in taking two steps forward and one back.
That is what it's always like to create something new, but the strong support we now have in place - both from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education, the Deans of the largest Norwegian educational institutions, the Research Council of Norway, the American Embassy in Oslo and so on - has been crucial.
"What role has educational sciences played as a bridge between UiO/ Norway and Berkeley in the establishment of this Center?"
Berkeley has many similar national centers, but this is the first Scandinavian one. It will be anchored at the College of Letters & Science, which is the largest faculty at Berkeley, with the most students, the most Nobel Prize winners and the greatest social impact. John McKee, Dean of the College of Letters & Science, has been a key partner from the beginning.
Several areas have been discussed as areas of focus for the Center, but they all have in common that they are concerned with education. Educational Sciences have been a recurring theme, and don't forget the excellent contact we've built up here through the Special Needs Education-exchanges.
Our students have access to practical school and pre-school experience in and around Berkeley, while they receive tutoring and take courses at UCB. We have also had many excellent visits to our Faculty by guest professors from UCB who have held lectures and seminars to faculty, students and research fellows.
"But UiO already has a 'Berkeley Center' - what is the difference between it and the Peder Sather Center?"
The existing Center comprises temporary "off-campus" office space for visiting academic staff, and has been an important resource for building up research contact between researchers at Berkeley and at Norwegian institutions. The new Peder Sather Center is in a different league as an "on-campus" spearhead for the development of research and academic collaboration between Berkeley and the largest Norwegian educational institutions.
The existing Berkeley Center also has a temporary funding base from the Research Council of Norway with the current allocation expiring in 2012, while the new Center is going to be permanent. I imagine that there will be synergies between the two, but time will tell,this will become clearer as the new Center's structure is defined. The Peder Sather Center will be part of the university.
"How have the students responded to the opportunities that open up for them?"
Well, we haven't had time to actively talk this up in the short time that has elapsed since the announcement, but the response so far has been excellent. We already have around 20 ISP students here per year, plus some from the other institutes at the Faculty. Altogether there are about 140 students from Norway here at any one time, and we expect that there will be more eventually.
One example of an area where we expect to see growing numbers of exchange students is in teacher training and school internships. I have established agreements for internships with all the public schools in the Berkeley area, and this provides for great development opportunities for our Norwegian students.
"You have spent a lot of time at Berkeley yourself. How significant do you think such a Center is for research cooperation?"
It's always the case that some are able to form contacts and alliances on their own, and the existing Berkeley Center has been a successful attempt to strengthen the success of these efforts. The new Peder Sather Center will be a stronger academic hub for those who need to search for and build up contacts. All experience shows that this kind of catalyst is essential to achieve substantial volume in cooperation.
But please put in that the Center will be a facilitation office, and not som form of certification office - it's not like a "rubber stamp" from the Center will guarantee you access to John Searle or any other world-class academics at UCB.
"Noted! One last thing - what about financing? It can't be cheap to establish and fund this Center?"
No, it was primarily securing the funding that took time. We are still working to bolster the Center's status with a permanent "endowment", a kind of fund where the returns on investments will be used to operate the Center. We have received significant pledges of support but we need to double this at least to ensure permanent and sustainable operation.
We wish Professor Duesund and The Peder Sather Center for Advanced Studies continued success in the establishment, and would like to encourage wealthy UV alumni and other external interested parties who want to "do the Peder Sather thing" to contact Professor Duesund for information about how to make a contribution to the Center.