College of Arts & Sciences

UW'S Palatial Home in León

To visit the UW’s newest campus, you’ll have to book a plane ticket. And brushing up on your Spanish couldn’t hurt.

  The mayor of Leon and A&S Dean Ana Mari Cauce look at a drawing of Leon.
Francisco Javier Fernandez Alvarez, mayor of León, and Ana Mari Cauce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, look at a fish-eye drawing of León, given to the University by the city of León.

The University recently signed a 10-year agreement with the City of León, Spain, for use of a 9,000 square-foot facility—rent free—in a 14th century palace. The building, Palace of the Conde de Luna, has housed the royal families of León.

Relations between the UW and León began about four years ago. The concept of a UW center emerged after Ana Mari Cauce, dean of Arts and Sciences, and Anthony Geist, chair of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, visited León in spring 2008.  Luis Fernando Esteban, Spanish vice-consul in Seattle, has also been instrumental in developing the UW-León connection.

“They want us there,” says Geist. “They want the relationship with the University of Washington and the prestige that brings, and they are willing to invest in us. The Spanish government is spending 25 million euros to renovate the building.”

Tower of the 14th century building that will house the UW center in Leon, Spain. -
Tower of the 14th century Palace of the Conde de Luna.

Housed on three floors in the palace tower, the center will include classrooms, administrative offices, and exhibit space. And though the center is rent free, the UW will pay utilities and maintenance, estimated at $2,000 per month.

Much like the UW’s Rome Center, which has served as home base for study abroad programs in everything from architecture to astronomy, the center in León will be available for use by departments and units across the University. One likely offering is a program in introductory Spanish, which Spanish and Portuguese Studies has held in León for three years.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to provide our students and faculty a more global education," says Cauce. "Students and faculty from all over campus— those interested in business, science, international studies, art, Spanish language and culture—should think about León as a spot where they can have a conference, a quarter-long course, or a summer experience."

  Lecture hall undergoing renovation in the UW's new facility in Leon, Spain
A lecture hall during renovation.

Located in the autonomous region of Castilla y León in northwest Spain, León is “a beautiful city—very clean, very safe, with fabulous food and wine,” says Geist, who adds that the city’s medieval roots are evident in the Romanesque and Gothic architecture and in the year-round pedestrian traffic on the Camino de Santiago, a medieval pilgrimage route that runs right through town.

UW President Mark Emmert will travel to León to participate in opening ceremonies for the new center in May, when the renovation is complete. After that, the facility will be ready for use.

“This is all just beyond my wildest dreams,” says Geist. “It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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