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Partners in Poland

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CAS dean, faculty members foster collaborations with University of Warsaw

UD faculty and administrators visited colleagues this semester at the University of Warsaw; the main gate at the entrance of the campus is shown here.

Longstanding collaborations, including faculty exchanges and study-abroad opportunities, between the University of Delaware and the University of Warsaw are expected to expand as the result of a relationship-building visit by UD faculty and administrators to Poland earlier this semester.

The connection between Delaware and Warsaw, which has centered on the universities’ psychology departments, was formalized in 2006 with the signing of an official partnership agreement. Each department includes social psychologists who share some research interests, including specialties in the study of prejudice and discrimination.

In addition, Warsaw has an English-language psychology program, at which several UD faculty members have taught or lectured.

Now, after this fall’s visit, the programs involving the two psychology departments are expected to expand, while other fields of study may implement their own exchanges and collaborative projects. Possible areas for partnerships include sociology, history, Jewish studies, philosophy and business management, said George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and part of the delegation that traveled to Poland.

“There’s a new Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw, which seems like a good fit for our Center for the Study of Diversity,” Watson said. “And the city has a new museum of Jewish history. We’ve been looking at ways to strengthen Jewish studies here, and that could be a great opportunity for our students.”

In fact, Watson said, Warsaw offers many prospects for study abroad and other international programs for students. Like other nations freed from domination when the Soviet Union dissolved, Poland has now experienced a quarter-century of dramatic change.

“They’re celebrating 25 years of democracy since the country was opened up, and that makes it a very interesting place,” Watson said. “I think Warsaw is a good city for our students to experience and a good place for them to study and work.”

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Future cross-cultural programs may include additional areas of study

​Faculty members from UD and the University of Warsaw stand in the courtyard outside the city's Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which opened in October.​

​In addition to Watson, the UD delegation to the University of Warsaw included Nancy Guerra, associate provost for international programs and director of UD’s Institute for Global Studies. Four other faculty members — Robert Simons, Michael Kuhlman and Ryan Beveridge, all of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Kirk Williams of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice — also were part of the visiting group.

Kulhman, who initiated the partnership with the Polish university years ago when he began talking with a colleague in Warsaw, Janusz Grzelak, and found that they had similar research interests in social psychology, said the most recent visit showcased the many opportunities for collaboration.

“I’ve taught there often, and so have other members of our department,” Kuhlman said. “We’ve had great experiences teaching there, and also in bringing their students here to Delaware in the summers to assist with research in our labs. I think both departments agree that everyone has gained a lot from these projects.”

In 2011, Kuhlman led a study-abroad program to Poland, where students focused on prejudice and discrimination, with a particular emphasis on the Holocaust. He said interest was strong — the program filled to capacity — and he hopes to offer it again this summer, when the curriculum will likely also cover the period from the mid-1980s to today.

Another possibility discussed during the visit was offering combined classes where students in Warsaw could join their counterparts at UD through the use of technology.

Simons, who is chair of UD’s psychology department, said that department’s successful experiences demonstrate the potential for similar exchanges to benefit other disciplines. 

“The larger purpose of the visit was to see if we could expand this partnership to other departments,” he said. “We wanted to try to find common ground, and I think we found a lot of it.”

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