This connection began during the second half of the 19th century when 35 North American teachers traveled to Argentina at the request of the then-President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento to help rebuild the public school system there. Over half of the teachers who participated were graduates of Winona Normal School. Several schools in Argentina still bear the name of our graduates, and these women continue to be remembered and honored in schools throughout the country.
Current faculty and staff have worked in the past several years to reestablish a living connection between our university and the school system of Argentina, especially in the city of Sarmiento's birth, San Juan. Our goal is to continue the legacy of service started by some of our earliest graduates. In May 2011, ten students and several faculty and staff returned to San Juan at the invitation of the local government to celebrate the bicentennial of the birth of President Sarmiento. They also volunteered for a week in an elementary school named after Mary O. Graham, a graduate of Winona Normal School. The legacy of Winona's 19th century teachers was clear to this group as they taught classes, re-established connections and learned of the rich history WSU shares with the people of Argentina.
Winona State students have continued to return to San Juan and the Mary O. Graham school since then, and we are working on establishing broader service opportunities in the Argentine educational system that would be available to a variety of people in the community, including teacher training and student, teacher and scholar exchange programs.