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Austin Peay partners with Belgrade’s Institute of International Politics and Economics, expanding global security engagement

By: Victoria Godinez February 23, 2024


Photo: APSU President Licari and IIPE Director Đorđević

Austin Peay State University (APSU) has reached a landmark agreement with the Institute of International Politics and Economics (IIPE) in Belgrade, Serbia, setting the stage for a dynamic international collaboration in the fields of global security and academic exchange. This partnership represents a significant commitment by both institutions to foster a deeper understanding of international relations and security studies.

On Feb. 13, the formalization of this partnership was marked by the signing of a memorandum of understanding. APSU President Michael Licari, together with Director Rich Mifsud of APSU’s Institute for National Security and Military Studies, joined their counterparts at the renowned IIPE to embark on what promises to be a fruitful alliance. Established in 1947, the IIPE has a storied history as a leading government research institution, and this new relationship with APSU is poised to build upon that legacy.

The partnership with IIPE is particularly noteworthy as it marks the first formal collaboration between an American institution of higher education and IIPE. This milestone underscores the commitment of both APSU and IIPE to fostering academic excellence and promoting international understanding.

IIPE Director Branislav Đorđević opened the signing ceremony by remarking on the similar backgrounds that he and Mifsud shared as retired military colonels. Đorđević then joked that as he and Mifsud were outranked at the table by a general (APSU Vice President and retired U.S. Maj. Gen. Walter Lord), perhaps he should cede the proceedings over. Đorđević finished his remarks by commenting on how impressed he had been when he researched APSU’s history and standing as an institution of higher education and his excitement over the new partnership.


Photo: IIPE Deputy Director Dr. Ivona Lađevac, IIPE Director Đorđević, IIPE Senior Researcher Dr. Vladimir Trapara, INSMS Director Dr. Rich Mifsud, APSU President Licari, APSU Vice President Maj. Gen. (ret.) Walter Lord

Licari expressed his support for the collaboration, stating, “This partnership with the Institute of International Politics and Economics opens new doors for our students and faculty to engage in global initiatives that contribute to the advancement of international relations and security studies.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mifsud, who added, “The INSMS at APSU is honored to be part of this groundbreaking partnership, which not only enhances our academic programs but also allows us to play a role in shaping U.S. foreign and defense policies in Serbia.”

The signing ceremony was attended by Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade John Ginkel, in his capacity as chargé d'affaires (acting ambassador). The U.S. Embassy delegation numbered seven people and included representatives from the embassy’s defense attache office, office of defense cooperation and public affairs section. The participation of Ginkel marked the first time an American official at the ambassadorial level had visited IIPE in more than 20 years.

Commenting at the close of the ceremony, Ginkel recounted the history of alliance and cooperation between Serbia and the U.S. and remarked that although there were currently areas of disagreement, there were also many more areas of fundamental agreement the two countries could cooperate on. Ginkel concluded his remarks by stating how happy he was that U.S. Embassy engagement with IIPE had resumed and wished the greatest success to the new Austin Peay partnership with IIPE.


Photo: IIPE Director Đorđević, acting U.S. Ambassador to Serbia John Ginkel and APSU President Licari.

After the ceremony, members of the delegations retired to IIPE’s main reception hall, where Mifsud gave a lecture for all IIPE researchers and staff titled “Increased Military Relations: Serbia and the United States.” During his presentation, Mifsud partly addressed his own experience as a military officer cooperating with the Serbian army and partly relied on his wider knowledge about the role of the State Partnership Program, within which the National Guard of different U.S. states and territories cooperate with various countries in the world. At the close of the presentation, there was a lively question-and-answer session where Mifsud took questions from IIPE researchers in the audience.

Looking ahead, members of the INSMS team are set to participate in IIPE's upcoming "Winter School" in March 2024, focusing on security topics. The Winter School serves as a platform for top postgraduate students from various Belgrade University Faculties to attend lectures on international politics and law at IIPE. Given the new IIPE partnership with Austin Peay, March 3-9 has been officially branded as “APSU Week” at the Winter School this year.


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