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Year of 2017-2018 to be announced in April

March 11, 2015

The 2014-2015 academic year is two months away from concluding, meaning the Year of China is also winding down, but that doesn’t mean students, faculty and staff cannot play an important role in the Year Of program’s longevity.

A survey was sent by email to all UW-River Falls students, faculty and staff on Feb. 20, calling for Year of 2017-2018 nominations. Everyone on campus could potentially have a say on which country the Year of 2017-2018 will be focused on.

Kayla Java, a UWRF senior business administration student, said an African country would be her choice.

“I think we should do an African one,” Java said. “I think that would be really cool because there’s a bunch of different cultures all within Africa, but there’s a lot of music and good vibes from Africa, I think, so yeah, that would be an interesting one to do.”

The next academic year will be the Year of Mexico, and the Year of 2016-2017 will be Brazil. After carefully considering nominations and tallying votes, the Faculty Senate International Programs Committee chooses the country. The nomination process starts three years in advance, so the committee and members of the UWRF community can reach out to experts in the surrounding area for participation in the Year Of program.

The country chosen must have cultural ties to the region, while also being a country that can be easily focused on academically.

“The culture of the region suggests resources for helping us to teach about that country,” said International Programs Committee Chair Marshall Toman. “As a professor, for me, the fundamental reason for having these Year Of is to teach the community about the country, and we need resources to do it.”

According to UWRF DoTS web services expert Michael Woolsey, the survey will close on Friday, March 13, but could not disclose nomination results just yet.

“The results will be delivered to Marshall Toman,” Woolsey said. “I’m not in a capacity to make comments about this project.”

The final decision will be made in late March at a Year Of implementation meeting. All responses to the survey will not be anonymous, and those who make nominations could be contacted by the committee.

Qualtrics, an online survey software, was used in the creation of the survey. Woolsey and Toman cooperated together to build the online survey.

Toman said that the committee received a total of 131 nominations last year, in which the International Programs Committee nominated Brazil as the Year of 2016-2017. Forty-seven different countries were nominated last year, but only eight had a legitimate shot, according to Toman, after the nomination process was finished. Brazil had 21 more votes than any other country, 16 of which were from students, a number the committee couldn’t ignore.

“We would not choose the top country if there were overriding reasons to choose another country, but last year it was kind of hard to ignore the numbers, even though most of those numbers, a little over half, were composed of students,” Toman said. “The irony is, by the time we have the Year of Brazil, we won’t have so many Brazilians.”

Based on trends from previous years, Toman believes the three countries with the best shot at being named the Year of 2017-2018 are India, Japan and South Korea, who combined for a total of 18 nominations from faculty and staff last year.

“I have no reason to think that the faculty, the four who nominated India, are going to change their minds, or the four who recommended South Korea or Japan,” Toman said.

A specific rubric is used by the committee before the final decision is made, which includes four elements:

1) What strategic importance can be attributed to increasing students’ awareness of this particular country and would it be easily achievable?

2) What resources exist to support this particular country (faculty expertise, courses on campus, education abroad opportunities, and expert contacts abroad and local)?

3) What additional resources would likely be accessible to support Year Of activities for this country?

4) What important outcomes are likely to be achieved as a result of focusing on this particular country?

“Nominating a country three years down the line hasn’t worked out exactly as we’d hoped,” Toman said. “I think it’s a little bit too far. I think nominating two years ahead instead of three would probably serve the campus just as well, if not better.”

Toman said that students can expect an announcement to be made on the final decision for the Year of 2017-2018 in the first week of April.