"The Sister City relationship informs our teaching, course design, faculty development, research and service. Sometimes we struggle to articulate the importance of the Sister City relationship to Albion College because it infuses virtually everything we do."
The above quote was how an Albion College faculty member recently described a relationship that received national recognition in 2014 from NAFSA: Association of International Educators in the form of a Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization.
What began as a bilateral exercise between the City of Albion and the village of Noisy-le-Roi, France, 20 years ago is now a true triangular relationship.
Albion and Noisy-le-Roi, located 15 miles west of Paris and a few minutes' drive from Versailles, formally became Sister Cities in 1997. (Bailly, an adjacent village, joined the partnership in 2010.) Over the first 10 years, in what was then a town-to-town collaboration, more than 500 Albion residents and students participated in youth and adult exchanges and internships in Noisy. Then in 2007, Albion College's new president, Donna Randall, and provost, Susan Conner, hosted "An Evening of French Food and Jazz" for the French delegation and members of the campus and Albion community. The seemingly small event proved to be a spark: It validated, coalesced and reinforced the often individual involvement of College faculty, staff and students. A year later, the College began its real journey as a partner in the Sister City relationship toward intentional internationalization and building friendships that underscore the collaboration.
The Sister City relationship has led to a number of collaborations. A few are highlighted below (click for more information):
A program in Sustainability Studies between Albion College and the University of Versailles at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) that includes a semester of study in France.
An international business plan development program between the College's Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management and the Ecole Superieure de Vente (SdV) in Saint-Germain-en-Laye.
An international practicum developed by Albion College's Education Department and the middle school in Noisy-le-Roi, in which Albion students go abroad for a week during winter break to observe students and teachers and make formal comparisons between the French and American systems of education.
Albion College's annual Piano Festival brings in the most talented young people from the environs of Paris to participate with students in south-central Michigan. And Albion fine and performing arts faculty have opportunities to exhibit and teach master classes in France.
Other opportunities have included faculty research for non-French specialists at the Bibliothèque nationale as well as student internships involving the restaurant business, organic farming, translating admissions materials, community service, and shadowing medical professionals.
Small institutions have incredible opportunities to harness energies, enthusiasm, and bold ideas and dreams, and pair them with the "person power" that comes from relationships. Here, the City of Albion, the Sister Cities of Noisy-le-Roi and Bailly, and Albion College happen to share and treasure joint values, namely "the ability to function as well-informed citizens both locally and globally" and often "to go beyond our comfort zones."
At the core of it, relationships matter. Indeed, they are essential. They grow, and they enable growth. They sustain, they are substantive, and they are substantial. And, in the case of this enduring relationship, they cement bonds that are an ocean or a sea apart.
The following representatives would be happy to share more information on the Sister City relationship and upcoming collaborations between Albion, Noisy-le-Roi and Bailly, and Albion College:
Dianne Guenin-Lelle, professor of French
City of Albion
Sister City Committee web page
Noisy-le-Roi and Bailly
Sister City website