Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie led an IU delegation to Italy and Poland from May 25 to June 3. The IU delegation celebrated anniversaries of relationships with key university partners and worked to enhance existing relationships and develop new ones in these countries.
Founding dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies Lee Feinstein joined President McRobbie and the delegation for the Poland portion of the trip. Feinstein served as U.S. ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012 and has ongoing relationships with Polish institutions.
At the conclusion of the formal IU visit, Dean Feinstein also was part of the Wroclaw Global Forum in Wroclaw, Poland, a global conference co-presented by the Atlantic Council bringing together more than 400 leaders from government, the corporate world, media, and civil society to discuss ideas surrounding democracy, prosperity, and security. Feinstein spoke on a panel called “Competitiveness in a Challenging Global Economy.” Addressing the current discussion on global trade agreements in the U.S. and elsewhere, Feinstein said there is not a general appreciation across the U.S. of how tied U.S. economic well-being is to European relationships. He noted that 80 percent of foreign direct investment in the U.S. is with Europe, adding that U.S. investment in Central Europe is higher than with all of India.
IU’s Director of Strategic Communications Ryan Piurek was part of the IU trip through the two countries and reported on the delegation in the “IU goes to Italy and Poland” blog. Below are excerpts from Piurek’s reporting on the Poland portion of the trip involving Dean Feinstein.
Beginning the Poland tour: Dean Feinstein in Krakow as IU and Jagiellonian University renew ties
Joining the IU delegation here in Krakow on Monday (May 30) was a prominent figure to many Poles: Lee A. Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland from 2009 to 2012 and founding dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies. While serving in Poland, Feinstein helmed one of the largest U.S. embassies in the European Union. During his tenure, he signed an agreement to establish a U.S. Aviation Air Force Detachment in Poland, the first permanent U.S. military presence in the country. In October 2012 in Warsaw, President Bronislaw Komorowski awarded him the Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit “for his outstanding contributions to Polish-American relations by strengthening cooperation between the Republic of Poland and the United States.”
The stately conference room in which the IU and Jagiellonian University officials came together had all the air of a diplomatic meeting, but with little need for any difficult negotiation. IU and Jagiellonian have had a positive and productive relationship dating back more than 30 years and a formal institutional partnership since 1997 involving both faculty and graduate student exchanges. Since 2009, those exchanges have taken place across a wide range of academic disciplines, including music, Slavic languages and literature, and law.
In addition to signing a renewed agreement between their respective institutions, the meeting participants explored a number of potential new collaborative activities toward the goal of expanding faculty and student exchanges. Hannah Buxbaum, wearing dual hats as John E. Schiller Chair in Legal Ethics at the IU Maurer School of Law and academic director of the new IU Europe Gateway office in Berlin, discussed building upon a successful partnership between the Maurer School and Jagiellonian University’s Faculty of Law and Administration, its oldest academic unit. She also talked about how the new gateway office, designed to be a central hub for IU activities across Europe, could help link more IU and Jagiellonian faculty and students.
McRobbie, Feinstein and Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret then took turns speaking about other interesting partnering opportunities, as well as major recent education and research initiatives at IU, such as the establishment of the School of Global and International Studies, a new program in intelligent systems engineering in IU’s School of Informatics and Computing and IU’s Grand Challenges research program. For his part, Feinstein specifically addressed the importance of strengthening IU students’ understanding of Poland’s central relationship with and role in the modern European system.
At almost every turn, the conversation highlighted IU’s long and storied history of engagement in Poland and Eastern Europe. At a time of fundamental political and social transformation in Eastern Europe, IU became actively involved with the study of Poland and helped to establish the American Studies Center in Warsaw and the Polish Studies Center at IU Bloomington in 1976. This led to IU establishing academic programs with Jagiellionian University, as well as with the University of Warsaw, at a time when such formal exchanges between the two countries were rare due to the Cold War.
Meetings in Warsaw, reaffirming a long-standing partnership
On Tuesday morning (May 31), members of the IU delegation met in downtown Warsaw with the leaders of the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, including its president and CEO Jerzy Kozminski, former Polish ambassador to the U.S. Last year, the foundation celebrated 15 years of working to strengthen Poland’s civil society, democracy and market economy, in large part by equalizing and expanding opportunities for educational and social development.
Since its founding, the Polish-American Freedom Foundation has launched a number of successful initiatives focused on education and community development in rural areas and small towns in Poland. They include, among other programs, training and grant competitions aimed at improving the quality of English-language teaching; new “bridge” scholarships for talented high-school graduates; opportunities for student volunteerism; leadership and skill-development training; support systems for Polish NGOs and civic initiatives; and civic and legal counseling.
Looking beyond Poland, the foundation has established a scholarship program for young leaders from across Eastern Europe, as well as from South and Central Asia, to perform their post-graduate studies at Polish universities and participate in internships in Polish companies. The foundation is also engaged in establishing grants, training opportunities and study tours that help illustrate the realities of Poland’s growth and major role within the European Union to foreign students and scholars.
Today’s more than two-hour meeting revealed several areas in which IU and the Polish-American Freedom Foundation might potentially collaborate, as IU pursues a global strategy centered on, as neatly outlined today by IU President Michael A. McRobbie, raising IU students’ knowledge and understanding of other cultures through expanded overseas study opportunities; diversifying IU’s campuses through the addition of more international students, especially those from countries with less of a tradition of sending students to the U.S.; building collaborative relationships between IU faculty and their peers in top institutions around the world; and furthering IU’s longstanding tradition of academic and government institution-building.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, the founding dean of IU’s School of Global and International Studies, and IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret both spoke openly about how proud IU has been of its historic relationship with Poland, which dates back 40 years and the formative role IU played in the creation of the American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw. (IU will participate in a special 40th anniversary celebration at the University of Warsaw on Wednesday afternoon.) Feinstein and Zaret also illuminated the university’s strengths in leadership training, public management and administration, area studies, foreign language instruction, business, law and other academic fields seemingly well aligned with the Polish-American Freedom Foundation’s priorities here in Poland.
Additionally, Hannah Buxbaum and Andrea Adam Moore, academic and gateway directors, respectively, of the new IU Europe Gateway office in Berlin, shared how the new office, which opened last fall, will support activities and initiatives for IU faculty to deepen ties with key institutional partners in Poland and across Europe.
The meeting concluded on a symbolic note of sorts—with McRobbie presenting Kozminski with a framed picture of former Polish President Lech Walesa taken in 1998, when the renowned solidarity hero and Nobel Peace Prize recipient made a celebrated visit to IU Bloomington, just one of the many chapters in IU’s storied history with this great country.
Dean Feinstein meets the current U.S. Ambassador to Poland
From the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, the delegation made a stop at former Ambassador Feinstein’s old stomping grounds here in Warsaw to meet at the U.S. Embassy with current U.S. Ambassador to Poland Paul W. Jones.
The meeting with Ambassador Jones, who assumed his post in Poland in September, offered delegation members another opportunity to highlight IU’s historic engagement in Poland and enthusiasm for re-energizing its partnerships here. IU took the first step in that process Monday when it renewed its cooperative agreement with Jagiellonian University in Krakow, one of the world’s oldest and most highly respected universities.
For his part, Jones was gracious in reminiscing about shared embassy experiences and challenges with his predecessor, while simultaneously offering several interesting insights into the state of higher education here in Poland. Indeed, it was especially generous of the ambassador to host the Hoosier delegation today, considering the major events coming up on the embassy’s horizon — in early July, his office will play a central role in organizing the historic Warsaw Summit, a meeting of all of the heads of state of NATO at Warsaw’s 58,000-seat National Stadium.
In particular, when it comes to Poland, IU has considerable interest in adjusting its focus toward issues concerning areas important to modern Poland and its future development.
“As proud as we are in our past relationship with Poland, we don’t want to rest on the past. We are really interested in moving our collaborations forward,” Feinstein told professor Leszek Sirko during the delegation’s final meeting late Tuesday afternoon. Sirko serves as Poland’s under-secretary of state in the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, and he is currently championing an effort to expand Poland’s research profile, in part by exploring possible collaborative activities with the best and most international research universities around the world. He was especially attracted to IU, which, he said, had managed the rare feat of partnering with Polish universities when such Cold War collaborations were the exception, not the norm, and he complemented IU for seeking to further its connections to Poland at a critical time in the country’s history.
(Coincidentally, and further proving that IU truly is everywhere, one of Sirko’s colleagues who attended today’s meeting had his own personal connection to IU. While pursuing his Ph.D. several years ago, Tomasz Kollat, chief expert of the Ministry’s Department of International Cooperation, spent time in Bloomington conducting research at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies.)
As the conversation continued, Sirko also became increasingly intrigued by IU’s new Grand Challengesresearch program to address complex, large-scale problems facing society and the university’s recent successes in advancing STEM education, two areas in which he is extremely passionate.
Finally, Henryka Bochniarz, one of Poland’s most prominent business leaders and feminists, joined the delegation for a working dinner to discuss trends in higher education and related issues. Among those also attending the dinner were a former minister of higher education and member of the European Parliament, the dean of Kozminski University, an internationally ranked private university in Warsaw, and other senior leaders in education and the private sector.
Interestingly, but not at all surprisingly, a singular theme surfaced at each of the IU delegation’s meetings today: Poland is extremely passionate about internationalizing its educational programs, and it sees in IU a strong and successful partner firmly committed to this dynamic country’s bright future.
Agreements with the University of Warsaw, the POLIN Museum
On Wednesday (June 1), McRobbie joined his University of Warsaw counterpart, President Marcin Palys, in signing a renewal of one of IU’s most successful international partnerships and meeting to discuss ways to fortify and further the collaboration for another 40 years. Accompanying McRobbie at the signing was Dean Feinstein, who forged a strong relationship with the University of Warsaw during his three years as ambassador to Poland, from 2009 to 2012, and Vice President Zaret, whose office oversees the central institutional partnership.
At the meetings, officials from both IU and UW agreed that the time is ripe for expanding student and faculty exchanges and research collaborations between the universities, and finding opportunities to extend the collaboration across various academic areas where the two universities share considerable strengths: the arts and humanities, area studies, business, language instruction, law, media and more.
Following the signing and meetings, McRobbie led IU’s participation in a special 50th anniversary celebration of the partnership, which featured several distinguished guests, including Polish Ambassador to the U.S. Ryszard Schnepf and past and present UW leaders.
To commemorate the occasion, the two universities launched the Krzysztof Michałek Memorial Lecture in American Studies, named for one of the former directors of the American Studies Center in Warsaw who also spent two years at IU as associate director of the Polish Studies Center. John Bodnar, IU Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of History, delivered the inaugural lecture at the celebration on the topic of war and memory.
On behalf of the entire IU delegation, McRobbie expressed our pride in reaffirming IU’s continuing and deep interest in Poland, a country of amazing resilience.
“That Poland has recovered and rebounded so successfully and dynamically after many decades of tragedy and horror to be once again one of the leading countries of Europe is a testimony to the extraordinary resilience and moral courage of the Polish people,” he said.
Members of the IU delegation had the opportunity to tour one such location this morning in Warsaw. The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which first opened in spring 2013, is truly a spectacular site. Housed in a post-modern, rectangular structure built from concrete, copper and glass, and designed by master Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki, it stands in what was once the heart of Jewish Warsaw—an area that the Nazi government turned into the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all of the Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II. This symbolic setting—along with the museum’s proximity to the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, which commemorates those individuals who lost their lives in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising—helps to serve the museum’s mission, which director Dariusz Stola neatly defines as “reflection and remembrance.”
The museum, which was named European Museum of the Year this year, seeks to recall and preserve the memory of the history of Polish Jews, contributing to greater mutual understanding and respect among Poles and Jews as well as other societies of Europe and the world. Secondarily, it aims to create a modern, multifunctional museum that provides an educational and cultural center, along with a platform for social dialogue.
The POLIN Museum, a six-story building made up of eight galleries, traces the story of Polish Jews, from the beginnings of Jewish settlement in Poland and rise of Jewish culture during several ensuring centuries to the horrors of the Holocaust. Through the use of photographs, artifacts, first-person accounts and interactive multimedia, the museum’s “Core Exhibition” leads visitors on a journey through 1,000 years of Jews in Poland, including what led them to settle in Poland, why they stayed and how the country eventually became home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world—there were 3.3 million Jews in Poland before the Holocaust.
The Core Exhibition is directed by a wonderful IU alumna, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. She worked with a team of more than 120 curators, scholars and designers on the exhibition, which opened to considerable fanfare less than two years ago. (A personal aside: I will never cease to marvel at the IU connections in important educational, political and cultural organizations all around the world!)
On Wednesday morning, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett kindly led IU President Michael A. McRobbie and his colleagues through a memorable tour of the exhibition’s galleries, each of which presents a different chapter of Polish Jews that enables visitors to come into intimate contact with those who wrote that story.
After the tour, Stola met members of the IU delegation, including McRobIU School of Global and International Studies Dean Lee Feinstein, left, and Dariusz Stola, director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, sign an internship agreement between IU and the museum. In back from left are IU Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret and President McRobbie.bie, Vice President for International Affairs David Zaret and Lee A. Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland and founding dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies, who has played a central role in the museum’s development. Feinstein currently sits on the North American Council of the museum; while serving as U.S. ambassador in 2011, he escorted President Barack Obama to the construction site of the museum. The discussions among the IU and museum leadership focused on linking the museum with various academic units at IU and leveraging the university’s considerable expertise—including in Jewish studies, Polish studies, Russian and East European area studies, foreign language instruction, arts administration and museology—to uphold the museum’s mission of supporting research and scholarly exchange on the history and culture of Polish Jews.
As a major first step in what promises to be a terrific collaboration, McRobbie and Stola signed a new partnership agreement Wednesday between IU and the POLIN Museum that will create opportunities for talented IU undergraduate students to intern at the museum during the summer. Conversations about further IU and POLIN connections then continued over a most memorable lunch at the museum, including Stola, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and two members of the POLIN Museum Council. The council representatives included two incredibly remarkable men: chairman Marian Turski, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp and went on to a distinguished career in Poland as a journalist and Jewish activist, and professor, researcher and diplomat Adam Rotfeld, also a Holocaust survivor, who served as minister of foreign affairs for Poland and today is an authority on the political and legal structures of the security system in Europe and human rights.
Wroclaw Global Forum
At the Wroclaw Global Forum on June 2, Feinstein spoke on a panel called “Competitiveness in a Challenging Global Economy.” Addressing the current discussion on global trade agreements in the U.S. and elsewhere, Feinstein said there is not a general appreciation across the U.S. of how tied U.S. economic well-being is to European relationships. He noted that 80 percent of foreign direct investment in the U.S. is with Europe, adding that U.S. investment in Central Europe is higher than with all of India.