Carmelo Urza, the founding director of the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) and great friend of the Center, recently announced his retirement, ending a tenure on August 31 that began way back in 1982. To mark this auspicious occasion Urza was interviewed for Nevada Today, providing news from the Communications Office about the University of Nevada, Reno.

Having been part of a program that brought students to the Basque Country in 1974, a trip that would serve as the later inspiration for USAC, Urza’s initial objective was to organize a more permanent program along similar lines, which led to the creation of USAC in 1982. In his own words, “My goal was to create a viable, ongoing program in the Basque Country.” But a year and a half into the new program he realized that it would have to expand to remain viable: “We simply needed more programs in order to achieve the necessary economies of scale, more efficient use of our scarce resources and an even broader recruiting base if we were to have a chance at succeeding.”

Urza recognizes, though, that without the help of Bill Douglass and the (then) Basque Studies Program as well as Pat Bieter, a professor at Boise State, the program would never have gotten off the ground, with both involving their respective universities in financing the program initially.

Another connection with the Center is that of our own Sandra Ott, another key figure in the early days of USAC:

“Sandy heroically put her shoulder to the proverbial wheel and made a success of the San Sebastian program … making it up as we went along,” Urza says. “In retrospect, I realize how little assistance she had in bringing the program to life. Sandy reached out to the locals, many of whom were eager to help and created extraordinary authentic experiences for participating students.”

And from these solid foundations USAC grew into the global phenomenon it is today.

Urza also speaks about his own Basque-American upbringing, growing up on a sheep ranch in southwestern Idaho, just off the Snake River, where he would go up into the Saw Tooth Mountains with a herder, camp-tender, and hand.

See the full story here.

From everyone at the Center, eskerrik asko Carmelo and enjoy your retirement!