Franco-American Cultural Exchange (FACE): UW-Madison And Montpellier Supagro, France

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received funds from both the French Foreign Ministry’s Franco-American Cultural Exchange (FACE) program and the U.S. National Science Foundation to support graduate student exchanges with universities and research centers in Montpellier, France, led by Ecole National Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier (SupAgro). UW students have the opportunity to live and study in Montpellier – a beautiful, 1,000-year-old city in southern France near the Mediterranean Sea. Like Madison, it is a popular medium-sized university city and the seat of local government.

About the Program

The program is designed to enhance graduate education in both France and the U.S. by providing opportunities for graduate students to do research and study in the other country for one spring semester. Our specific goals are to:

  • Train global scientists with concrete technical skills and a broad perspective on how science works within specific social, regulatory, and political contexts.
  • Teach the cross-cultural competence that students need to compete effectively in the international environment.
  • Demonstrate how to apply interdisciplinary tools to solve real-world problems.
  • Model ways to form collaborative alliances so useful in one’s career.

The program emphasizes cross-cultural environmental and conservation studies. We expect our program to have long-lasting effects on students’ career opportunities. By working in alternative cultural and political contexts, students will gain cross-cultural competence and learn to apply interdisciplinary tools to solve real-world problems. This experience should improve your ability to form collaborations and work effectively in an international environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who should apply?

We encourage applications from graduate students interested in the broad group of disciplines that connect to environmental studies (including but not limited to plant sciences, climate change, microbiology, rural sociology, conservation biology, economics, land use and urban sprawl, watershed management). Our goal is to help students explore innovative approaches to environmental issues and their scientific and political solutions in the context of working abroad. This exchange program is optimal for students at early and mid-levels of graduate study, although we will consider applications from senior graduate students with a well-developed proposal for research in Montpellier that will advance their graduate program. Each student’s program will be individually tailored to complement and advance their UW graduate work. Read the application instructions.

How is the Program Structured?

Our lead partner in Montpellier is SupAgro, formally known as the Ecole National Superieure Agronomique de Montpellier. This is a small, elite agricultural university that offers a semi-structured Masters program for professional students. It has distinguished faculty who have active research programs and multiple institutional affiliations in Montpellier. The departments are comparable to UW’s College of Agriculture (e.g. Soil Science, Plant Protection, Forest Ecology, Wildlife Ecology, Agricultural and Resource Economics, Rural Sociology, Urban Planning, etc.). Exchange students can choose to take several modular (one-at-a-time) courses at SupAgro for UW credit (these are mostly in French, but a few are in English). More advanced students may prefer to focus on research.

The second element in this exchange is your independent research. Our exchange draws on an unusually broad set of educational and research institutions in Montpellier, ranging from large universities to specialized government research institutes. For more specifics, see the websites listed below. We will work together with you and your advisor to match you with a host advisor in Montpellier. Your research project there should complement, enrich, or extend your UW graduate research; for students in some MS programs, your Montpellier research may be your Masters project.

Applicants should seek to identify one or more suitable labs in Montpellier at which they could work. We will help you make connections and develop a project once you have identified candidate labs or advisors. We encourage you to learn more by talking with us, contacting our French colleagues, and exploring these websites (for English versions, you may be able to click on a small British flag near the header):

What funding is available?

Participants receive support. Support levels vary and range from a base $4,500 stipend plus travel assistance (without tuition, mainly for those taking classes) to a 50% Research Assistantship for the semester (~$7,125 plus tuition waiver and $900 to cover travel, mainly for those focused on research). All participants will receive international health insurance, assistance in planning travel, securing a visa, and related paperwork for study abroad.

In addition, SupAgro can provide for students in its programs:

  • a one-half of market price housing subsidy if you live in university housing
    (Note: market rates for off-campus apartments are ~€420 per month compared to University housing costs of about €210 per month. However, some UW students found the SupAgro dorms had an “undergraduate” atmosphere)
  • a meal ticket that provides access to meals on campus at about 33% of campus-based fair market costs (meals at €2.8 instead of €8.4)
    Note: This is a reciprocal exchange program meaning that French students coming to UW are enrolled at SupAgro and vice versa. You therefore need to pay tuition or have an assistantship or fellowship that includes a tuition waiver.

Do I need to speak french?

Yes, at least some. If you are planning to take classes and get the most from your international experience, you will need reasonably fluent written and spoken French. If you are only doing research, you may be able to get by with elementary French, depending on the lab (most French scientists speak good English). Selected participants will undergo a French language assessment, and we will help you obtain intensive language training.