Carolina Celebrates 20th Anniversary of TransAtlantic Masters Program
Designed to provide students with an international education firmly rooted in both European and American perspectives, the TransAtlantic Masters (TAM) Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill celebrates its 20-year anniversary in 2018. An innovative approach to postsecondary education, TAM was one of the first programs in the country to offer a transatlantic degree by building foundational partnerships with world-renowned universities and professional communities throughout Europe.
The two-year long program was established in 1996 within the Center of European Studies (CES) at UNC-Chapel Hill — which concurrently celebrates its 25th anniversary this year — due to financial support from the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. When the first class of students enrolled in TAM in 1998, the program included a single track of study in conjunction with the Euromasters program at the University of Bath. Today, a semester-long core module at Carolina establishes a comparative framework for contemporary European societies and politics, followed by two immersive overseas semesters at the student’s choice of European host universities in Bath, Berlin, Grenoble, Madrid and Siena. Students usually complete a thesis during their fourth semester of the program in the location of their choice.
“We’re very proud of the robust educational experience we’ve created with the TAM Program, building bridges between the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and our international partners,” says John Stephens, director of CES and Gerhard E. Lenski Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology. “Our graduates have gone on to forge remarkable careers in government service, research, academia and the corporate world.”
Stephens notes that programs such as this were made possible through the foundational work of early leaders of the Center for European Studies Gary Marks, Burton Craige Professor of Political Science, and Konrad H. Jarausch, Lurcy Professor of European Civilization.
Over the past two decades, the TAM Program has expanded to include nine partner universities in Europe and one in Turkey: Complutense Universidad of Madrid; Gothenburg University; Humboldt Universität zu Berlin; Sciences Po in Grenoble; University of Bath; Universität Bremen; Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona; Università degli Studi di Siena; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam; and Middle East Technical University in Ankara.
In 2008, the program added a second track of study in European governance, designed for students planning to further their academic or professional careers through research. Students following this track complete two consecutive semesters of coursework at UNC-Chapel Hill and one academic year at a partner site in Europe, studying social policy and political contestation as well as European governance through the lens of quantitative research methods training. The German-Turkish Studies track, which developed out of the German-Turkish Master’s Program, was established in the fall of 2014, offering a focus on economic development, democracy in Turkey and Germany and language instruction. Students in this track typically spend one semester at UNC-Chapel Hill, one semester in Ankara (although not currently, due to security concerns) and one academic year in Berlin.
TAM Alumni Reflect
Alex Frigo ’99 was a member of the inaugural TAM class. As an undergraduate, Frigo majored in international studies and earned minors in German with minors in Spanish and French. He felt that the TAM program was almost tailor-made for his interests. “I wanted a better grasp on the European Union and European culture, and how that was all fitting together politically,” Frigo says. “It was such an interesting time with the Euro being introduced and the former Eastern Bloc coming onto the scene, so I thought [the TAM Program] was a great transition.”
Frigo appreciates that the program emphasized debate, discussion and conversation, which he says opened him up to very objective, intellectual debates about politics in Europe. Since leaving the program, Frigo has spent much of his career in the corporate sector, working at Lufthansa for the last 16 years. In his current role as general manager of sales for the Midwest in Chicago, Frigo sees the application of his TAM education on a regular basis. “A lot of policies they’re implementing in the EU like this GDPR with data confidentiality very much impacts how we work as a company,” Frigo says. “The TAM Program has always been a very big discussion point on my resume, and it’s extremely interesting to employers.”
A more recent graduate of the TAM Program, Kuwait-born Nourah Shuaibi ’15, came from an undergraduate career at the University of Missouri, where she earned three bachelor’s degrees in political science, international law and criminal justice, and peace and conflict resolution studies. “I was looking for a [postsecondary] program that wouldn’t just give the conventional class experience,” Shuaibi says. “Especially with my political science degree, I wanted to see different perspectives on politics. The accomplished professors in the TAM Program were amazing, and brought a lot of value to the program.”
Pursuing the original transatlantic studies track, Shuaibi spent her semesters overseas in Prague and Siena, and was completing her thesis on how the media portrays global terrorism in Paris at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Now working toward her doctorate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Shuaibi’s goal upon graduating in 2020 is to focus full time on the non-profit she started while in the TAM Program, Global Outreach Leaders, and her conflict resolution consulting firm. “TAM gives students the best of both worlds — great academic experience and great personal growth experiences. It’s a very holistic program,” she says. “The education is very interactive and sticks with you. Everything I learned I continue to use on a daily basis.”
Sarah A. Hutchison, associate director of TAM, agrees. “In my work with TAM applicants, students and graduates over the past sixteen years, I’ve noticed that the program has consistently attracted individuals who resist the ordinary and who seek adventure,” she says. “TAM community members are keen to find transatlantic solutions to today’s pressing challenges. It has been a pleasure to see the many diverse ways graduates apply their academic and experiential TAM learning to their professional and personal pursuits. We are so grateful that TAM alumni remain engaged with the program and actively contribute to its growth.”
“As we celebrate our 20th anniversary of the TAM Program, we are particularly proud of the achievements our graduates,” says senior associate dean Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld. “We look forward to continuing to build our international community and serve as a leader in innovative transatlantic education for many years to come.”
In 2015, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges approved the TAM program for double degrees, meaning students earn a master’s degree from both UNC-Chapel Hill and a European university during the two-year program. Several alumni remain active with the program through the TAM Alumni External Advisory Board, meeting bi-annually to provide recommendations on strategy, marketing, recruitment and more.