Foundation makes $300k gift to IPE

Students and staff studying in the field of International Political Economy will be delighted to hear that the Kaimas Foundation, a private foundation based in Colorado, has donated $300,000 to help the IPE program support students and faculty studying abroad. Considering the fact that more than three-quarters of IPE students choose to study abroad, this donation provides major assistance to the program.

This donation will be made out to the Nicholas Vasilius Endowment Fund, established in 2009, which helps professors in the discipline “to pursue scholarship abroad, mentor student research, acquire new academic materials, develop innovative content and pedagogy, and strengthen interdisciplinary programs.”

Vasilius graduated from the University in 2007, and is now the chief financial officer of the Kaimas Foundation. He said in a press release that the “philosophy behind IPE” connects to the ideals of the foundation, and that, after traveling to over 40 countries around the globe, “having a core of people with this knowledge, who can relate across cultures and borders, can have a considerable impact on peoples’ lives.”

Associate professor Dr. Brad Dillman, director of the IPE program, is “thrilled” by this generous donation. “I think that the donor [Vasilius] really is someone who has traveled himself … and he sees it as important to get around the world and to be exposed to different cultures, and to see those linkages between where you’re living and the rest of the world,” Dillman said.

The IPE program is fairly new, and the University of Puget Sound was one of the first institutions in the United States to adopt it as an undergraduate program. That was in the early 1990s; today, between 40 and 50 students graduate with an IPE Bachelor of Arts degree each year.

“I think it’s wonderful,” freshman Ian Latimer, a potential IPE major, said, “because IPE is not a common program around the nation. This donation will really help make it live up to its potential, as it’s still starting out … It doesn’t have all the funding that the other programs might.” He expects that Vasilius’ donation could help the major “blossom into what it truly can be.”

As the major grows, the reach of students must grow along with it. Part of the fund has been used to send a recent graduate, Sally Judson ’12, to a conference in Washington, D.C. Funds are important to the IPE program for instances like these,  which send students to various parts of the world to speak or study. More financial aid means that more students can be sent to more places, as well as help with other areas of the program’s study.

While grants are sometimes available for students, “[the donation] will give us an extra resource,” Dillman said. “Faculty from different institutions might be able to come here to work with our majors.”

But the possibilities for the program’s funding go beyond individual students studying abroad, or one faculty member traveling to a conference. “Another possibility is to be able to take students as a class overseas for research opportunities,” Dillman said. This is not a staggering concept; in the past, Professors Nick Kontogeorgopolous and Gareth Barkin, both from Comparative Sociology, took a certain group of students and studied for two weeks in Southeast Asia.

Through this donation from the Kaimas Foundation, the IPE program will be able to prosper in its international understanding as well as empower the world through the students’ abilities, sharpened by the faculty’s mentoring and teachings.

As stated on its main page, the IPE program helps students to “consider the integrated character of global economic, political, and social issues.” The gift from Vasilius will encourage this education to continue, spreading critical thinking and the dual abilities of economics and politics from the University of Puget Sound to every country in need of empowerment.