The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, recently traveled to Texas, Alabama, and Georgia in the Southern States of the US. In this week’s blog, Dr. Maggie Parke, Market Development Manager at Universities Wales, shares her experiences on the delegation as they visited existing Welsh partners, prospective university partners, and celebrated the links between the people of Wales and the South.
A highlight of the trip was a visit to the 16th Street South Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama which houses a stained-glass window, known as the Wales window, given to the church in 1965. It was a gift from the people of Wales and Welsh artist John Petts after the church, and four of its young members, were victims to a racially-motivated explosion at the church during the American Civil Rights movement.
The Minister and Siân Lewis from the Urdd laid
a memorial wreath at the site, and presented a gift of a Welsh Bible and a hand-made glass plate to Pastor Arthur Price Jr. We learned about the importance of the site, its rising status as a national historical monument and candidate as a world-heritage location, and the impact the gift from Wales had on the community in the form of this stunning, crowd-sourced window.
With visits to the University of Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech, and Emory University, there were numerous occasions to celebrate the successes of Welsh universities.
A Statement of Intent was signed between Emory University (incorporating the Atlanta Studies Network) and the Welsh Government to promote ongoing mutual cooperation in educational and research activities to strengthen university and civic-cooperation. Welsh Government are working with partners in the university sector, the Learned Society of Wales and HEFCW to take this important international civic mission partnership forward.
We attended a luncheon at the British Consul General’s residence in Atlanta with Aberystwyth University’s southern partners from The Citadel, University of North Georgia, the University of Alabama, Carson-Newman University, and the University of Tennessee.
The Minister spoke at The World Affairs Council breakfast, moderated by Mark Becker, President of Georgia State University on innovations in Welsh education, highlighting the excellence of our universities, accessibility for American students, and affordability to a room full of more than a 100 local educators and business leaders.
Wales also had the warmest of welcomes at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where there was enthusiasm for new relationships with the Welsh Universities, and eager support of our partnerships with the Fulbright and Gilman Scholarship programs. They had 25 applicants for the Fulbright last year, and are looking to double their Gilman applicants. They expressed their excitement that Wales has established such a strong relationship with these high-profile scholarship bodies, and that Wales offers affordable, competitive options for students unsuccessful at getting the full award.
The warm welcome, excellent opportunities for our students and the enthusiasm for their students to explore Wales was wonderful! Wales showed itself as open to the world and welcoming to these high-level relationships, and the prospects are exciting.