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Cleveland State's new Polish presence

February 16, 2012

By Roman Verzub

Cleveland and Cleveland State University have had a long tradition of diversity, and now one group is taking the time to educate CSU on its history.

As part of its global outreach efforts Cleveland State University has been working on developing visiting professors programs that make scholarly connections with the various ethnic communities in Cleveland area.

The university sees this as part of its effort to build partnership with international universities, explained Gregory Sadlek, Dean of College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, who helped create the India Scholar and Polish Scholar programs.

He described it in a flier as “one more step in fashioning the global context for the work of the college,” and as “a big step in linking the college back to an especially important ethnic community in Greater Cleveland.”

The college sees the program as one more step incorporating a more-global context into the curriculum and classroom, and an important effort in linking the college to an important ethnic community in the Greater Cleveland area.

Under the program, Dr. Piotr Wilczek, a visiting professor from the University of Warsaw, currently teaches classes on topics such as Polish culture through film, a hybrid class that has been introducing students to “social and political issues of post-war Poland” via the “main achievements of Polish-post-war cinema.”

Another class taught by Dr. Wilczek is called “The Canon of Polish Culture: What Everyone Should Know,” which introduces students to “main aspects of Polish history, culture, and literature,” as well as “controversies around the formation of Polish literature and cultural canon, selected aspects of the history of Polish Christianity, and Polish-Jewish relations.”
The classes are non-conventional.

Indeed, with the professor having already left for Poland, instruction will continue online for the former class, while the latter was not for-credit.

Dr. Wilczek regrets that only two classes were offered this semester, but says that “perhaps there will be more classes and events in Polish studies next academic year.”
In one of the classes, the students discussed the film Katyn, about the Katyn massacre of 1940, in which the Soviet secret police mass-executed an estimated 22,000 Polish nationals.

About 15 students in the class (some students were not present) discussed the massacre and made deeper inquires about the tragedy.

According to Wilczek, the Soviets, much like the Nazis, kept detailed records of events such as these.

What was most shocking to some students was that there were some Poles who fought alongside the interests of those outside of their own countrymen.

“Some Polish workers fought alongside the Germans,” he said, “but they were influenced by these socialist-communist ideas from the propaganda of Russia.”

The composition of the class was diverse and included non-traditional students such a CSU faculty like School of Communication professor Dr. Kimberly Neuendorf and the retired judge Diane Karpinski.

The program, while vibrant with excitement, lacks the funds, said Carol Stafinski, of the Ohio Chapter of the Kosciuzko Foundation.
Dean Sadlek agrees.

“Because we live in an era of shrinking state support for public universities,” he said in a message to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, “we cannot rely on state dollars to find this important idea. That’s why I hope that, if you share my enthusiasm for Polish Studies, you will help me to build a funding base to make this program a reality.”