May 2, 2013
Polish Studies Initiative to enrich campus culture
By Samah Assad
For more than 60 years, Polish culture was of crucial importance to the United States’ geopolitical interests when U.S. attention was focused on the Cold War until 1989. However, when Communism fell and Americans’ national interest in Poland and its politics diminished, scholarly interest followed suit.
Since then, the country has grown and modernized — it’s thriving culture, politics and history is spurring interest once again. This is what sparked Edward Horowitz, associate professor of communication, and Gregory Sadlek, dean of the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences, to create the Polish Studies Initiative at Cleveland State University to enhance students’ knowledge through a unique cultural experience.
Horowitz’s connection to Poland dates back to the 1990s, in immediate years after the demise of Communism, when he lived in Warsaw conducting doctoral research. Poland’s rich history instantly intrigued him — Horowitz believed there was more to be learned, more to study about the country’s politics, culture and communication, and he felt this could enrich college students.
“It was an immersive experience,” Horowitz said. “It gave me a chance to learn about an interesting society, culture and history, so I continued doing work in that area.”
Sadlek also saw value in integrating Polish culture at Cleveland State, and he strived to create a program that would link the university’s international education efforts to specific ethnic communities in the Cleveland area. He previously had success in working with the Slovenian community and the Slovenian government to set up a Center of Slovenian Studies at Cleveland State, and he saw similar potential in a Polish Studies program.
“Like the Slovenians, the Polish/American community in Cleveland is important to CSU because we in the college seek to be engaged with the local Cleveland community,” Sadlek said via email. “My interest in creating a Polish Studies program was also spurred by strong encouragement from various representatives of the Polish/American community. including, for example, retired judge Diane Karpinski.”
In 2010, Sadlek met with the University of Warsaw — the largest university in Poland — to build a foundation for the initiative. Sadlek signed a Memorandum of Understanding, and this agreement linked the two universities together and committed them to developing student and faculty exchanges, as well as joint research initiatives. This led to Sadlek developing a Polish Studies Initiative that could create opportunities for students to explore Polish language, history and culture.
Last year, Sadlek appointed Horowitz as director of the Initiative, and since then, both have collaborated to engage students with Polish Studies. In January 2012, the Initiative kickstarted as visiting professor Dr. Piotr Wilczek from Warsaw University taught courses “Polish Culture Through Film” and “The Canon of Polish Culture” at Cleveland State.
In order to keep the Initiative alive and sustain students’ interests, Horowitz coordinated a lecture series program this year as well. He cited one of the most successful moments thus far to be when Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland visited Cleveland State on April 8 and discussed the improving relationships between Jews and Catholics in Poland.
“Ultimately, my goal is to bring speakers and scholars to CSU who can speak with real authority about life in Poland,” Horowitz said. “Rabbi Schudrich has done terrific work in Poland in helping bridge the Jewish-Catholic divide. This was a talk that was of great interest to many people in the Polish-American community, as well as students in the Religious Studies Department.”
Horowitz also gave a lecture at Cleveland State to students, faculty and staff on April 18 and discussed the effects media have on Polish young adults. Last year, he collaborated with two Polish professors on a research study examining how young adults viewed current Polish economic issues, and tax and social security proposals. They found very distinct differences between young adults who followed economic news online versus TV news.
“Those who get their news online are much more supportive of reforms to economic policies,” Horowitz explained. “This suggests there may be distinct cognitive differences from the media in this area.”
Horowitz hopes to build great interest in the Cleveland State community through building solid relationships with organizations on campus and in the community. He plans to coordinate more lectures and collaborate with various Cleveland State departments, such as film, art and music to expand the outreach to more students.
He added that by the 2014-15 fiscal year, the Initiative’s prime goal is to create an endowment and raise enough funds to bring a visiting Polish scholar to teach courses at Cleveland State every other year. He believes that this opportunity will not only allow the university to fulfill its mission of engaging students with topics on an international scale, but also open the doors for students to one day graduate with a minor or certificate in Polish Studies. Horowitz also envisions a Polish Studies program that provides students, who may not have otherwise traveled abroad, the chance to experience a new culture and enrich their learning at Cleveland State.
“Having students be exposed to these kinds of ideas helps to broaden their education beyond what they may be getting in their classroom,” Horowitz said. “We want to connect CSU students to bigger, better things, and here’s an opportunity to learn about Poland.”