AUSTIN, Texas—Fifteen Swedish journalists visited The University of Texas at Austin campus recently to learn about presidential politics — Texas style — and to hear about the successful campaign of a small group of Swedish Texans to establish a $1 million endowment in Swedish Studies at the University.
While on campus, the journalists met with Dr. Bruce Buchanan, a UT Austin presidential politics scholar, and a group from the College of Liberal Arts and Swedish studies.
UT Austin is one of only four universities in the United States that offers a major in Scandinavian Studies. It is possible to study Swedish language and culture from the beginner’s level to a doctorate degree. The Swedish Studies Excellence Endowment seeks to “preserve, celebrate and continually renew the rich Swedish strains that flavor our American melting pot,” said Carrin Patman, chairman of the endowment steering committee.
The endowment will be used for additional scholarships and international exchange programs, a broadened range of course offerings, expanded research and teaching materials and symposiums featuring Swedish arts and culture. With a recent grant of $150,000 from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation of Stockholm, the endowment now is only $16,000 short of its $1 million first-stage goal.
The Swedish journalists, representing print media, radio and television, were in the United States to do stories on the presidential election — an event that holds a lot of interest for Swedes, said Buchanan. “They peppered me with questions about George W. Bush and his eligibility for running for president; who would win the election, and so forth,” he said.
“Media like CNN keep the United States front and center at all times in foreign countries. We are the largest superpower in the world, and we have an economic impact on virtually every country. So, it’s not hard to understand why these Swedish journalists are covering American politics as extensively as their own,” said Buchanan, who has been quoted in hundreds of newspapers since the 2000 presidential race began.
While meeting with representatives from the College of Liberal Arts, the visiting journalists expressed surprise at discovering there had been a sizable settlement of Swedish immigrants in Texas in the 1800s.
Patman pointed out to them that it was a Swedish immigrant named Swante Palm who launched the library at UT Austin. “Palm was a bibliophile who amassed a huge and impressive personal library — donating most of his books to the University in 1897, a gift that increased the size of the library by more than 60 percent,” she said.
Last spring the endowment sponsored an international symposium on Swedish inventions, an event attended by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Plans already are under way for an event next spring around the theme of the Nobel Prize and its winners.
“The endowment enhances the status of the United States as an international mecca for the best scholars and students in the field and, also, as a fertile market for Swedish companies selling to a population which will be increasingly educated as to the charms and strengths of Swedish culture, the excellence of Swedish technology and the high quality of Swedish design,” Patman said.