Croft Institute celebrates 20th anniversary

Posted on Oct 5 2018 - 5:50am by Jordan Holman

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi.

For over two decades, the institute has maintained a nationally recognized intensive foreign language program that requires at least one semester abroad and a senior capstone.  

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring together current students with all the people who — over the last 20 years — have made Croft into a special place: the generous donors who supported the institute’s founding, the administrators who offered the vision for a special program, the faculty who created the excitement in the classroom and the Croft alumni who put in the work to earn the degree and turn it into an exciting career,” Croft Executive Director and associate professor of history Oliver Dinius said.

The Croft Institute inducted its first cohort of students in 1998, after Mississippi native Joseph C. Bancroft donated $60 million to found a program that encouraged international policy and study abroad.

Over the past 20 years, 520 UM students have graduated from the institute, according to Dinius.

“The intensive foreign language studies, at least a semester of study abroad and the passionate work of Croft faculty and staff have created an institute and legions of graduates who have changed the UM campus, the state of Mississippi and the world,” Dinius said.

Senior international studies major Leta Rowan said the institute has changed her life for the better.

“Before coming to Ole Miss, I had never ridden on an airplane, and I could count all the Spanish words I knew on my fingers and toes,” Rowan said. “Since then, as a Croft senior, I’ve lived abroad twice, reached the edge of Spanish fluency and met some of the closest friends I’ve ever made.”

The Croft Institute is hosting several events on Friday to celebrate the anniversary.

There will be two sessions of alumni panels and breakout sessions in the Joseph C. Bancroft Conference Room — one from 10-11 a.m. and another from 11 a.m. to noon.  

Rowan said she is eager to speak with Croft alumni about where their international studies degrees have taken them.

A formal commemoration ceremony will be held in Croft Room 107 from 2-3:30 p.m. Dinius will speak at the event, as will several guest speakers, including Gerald M. Abdalla, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat, Provost Noel Wilkin and alumni Susan Hedglin and Patrick Woodyard.

Following this event, a reception will be held from 7-11 p.m. at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. Croft alumni, students, faculty and staff are invited for an evening of food and live music.

“I think the community among Croft students is something really unique at Ole Miss.  Croft is already a relatively small program, but over the past four years, I’ve grown closer to other Crofties than freshman Leta at the Croft retreat would’ve ever imaged,” Rowan said, reflecting on her time in the program. “Whether I’m on the porch, in one of the Croft classrooms or upstairs in the kitchen getting ‘croffee,’ there’s always a friend in the building.”

Dinius said the Croft Institute hopes to continue building on the success it has had since 1998.

“The donors of the institute and the leadership of the University of Mississippi had the idea to found an international studies program at a time when the Internet was young and social media not yet part of our world,” Dinius said. “Now, in the globalized media-driven world of 2018, we want to make sure that our students still acquire the basic skills that Croft has always emphasized but combine them with the complementary quantitative, technical and/or business skills that translate into successful careers.”