Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
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Detroit, MI 48202 United States
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Exciting year for Polish studies @ WSU

Date: 6/19/2017
Author: Alina Klin

WSU Polish Studies had an exciting year

Here are some highlights of the 2016/2017 academic year in the Polish Studies.
 

2017 Poland Study Abroad Program
A very important part of the WSU Polish Studies continues to be the annual Poland Study Abroad Program offered each May. Taken in conjunction with Survey of Polish Culture course (POL 2710), the program fulfills the University Foreign Culture Requirement.

This year, the participants (six students and three faculty members) explored the old city of Kraków, hiked the Tatra mountains, reflected on WWII while visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, walked the tunnels of the world famous Wieliczka Salt mines, stayed in line for one-and-a-half hours to see the famous portrait by Leonardo da Vinci “Lady with an Ermine” during the Museum Night in Kraków, and enjoyed Frederic Chopin’s music at a beautiful park at the composer’s birth place in Żelazowa Wola. Catholicism is an important component of Polish identity, therefore Częstochowa, the home of the Black Madonna, and Wadowice, the birthplace of Pope John Paul II were also on the agenda.

Among other high points were a lecture on Polish literature, as well as “taking the waters” in a mineral water park in the Tatras, a tour of the Polish Parliament, sightseeing in Amsterdam that included a peek at the Anne Frank house, and a one-day trip to Prague (the Czech Republic). The last trip was taken only by the most hardy travelers, as it required going both ways on a night bus; nevertheless it allowed the students to broaden their European perspective by comparing two of the most popular European travel destinations, Kraków and Prague. 

During the trip the students often repeated the mantra “Thank you Mr. Okonski!” since the Polish-American philanthropist Ray Okonski generously donated $10,000 to the program. The money was used to pay for the students’ airfare and some extras, such as trips to Gdansk, Wadowice and a side trip to the city of Amsterdam. The new European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk is a definite “must see” on anybody’s trip to Poland. While there, the WSU students and faculty learned the story of the victorious labor movement that inspired the world. Among other world-famous museums on the trip itinerary was POLIN, Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In 2016 POLIN was awarded the most prestigious European museum award, the 2016 European Museum of the Year.

The 2017 Poland Study Abroad participants experienced a very friendly, vibrant, easy to travel, beautiful country, full of culture and history. The trip provided them with a multimodal learning experience that facilitated a better understanding of Poland and Europe as well as current world affairs.

Polish Culture Club
This year again the WSU Polish Culture Club was involved in fundraising and donated $900 to the Slavic Scholarships. Since the club’s mission is sharing Polish culture, the Club organized film screenings, a Fat Tuesday pączki sale, and partnered with Friends of Polish Art, a society that in 2017 celebrates its 80th anniversary, in organizing Christmas Eve festivities that were enjoyed by over 200 people.

Our excellent students awarded scholarships
Four outstanding Polish Studies students who also happened to be active members of the Polish Culture Club were recognized by the Friends of Polish Art and received FPA scholarships ($2,500 each.)  They are: Nicole Beller who pursues a dual degree in Slavic Studies with the Polish concentration and in biochemistry, Emily Collette who minors in Polish and majors in Criminal Justice, Michelle Daros, who recently was accepted into the audiology program, and Gerald Nowak, who studies Polish language and culture while working on his graduate degree in sociology. It’s noteworthy that in addition to leading the Club’s activities Nicole Beller and Emily Collette have been also working on their undergraduate research projects.

Internship at a new Hamtramck community space/art gallery
This spring students in Polish and Global Studies were presented with a unique opportunity to work as interns for “The Wall Speaks Project”, an interactive multimedia exhibition authored by the internationally recognized Polish-American artist Wojtek Sawa. The exhibition, dedicated to Polish children of WWII, was hosted by Hamtramck’s Bank Suey Gallery in April and May, and was accompanied by numerous events such as art shows, music performances, lectures, and community meetings. Two WSU students, Paulina Kowalczyk (minoring in Polish) and Josh Beck (majoring in Global Studies) assisted the artist Wojtek Sawa and the gallery staff in the exhibits and events preparations, helped with P.R., and served as docents guiding viewers through the exhibition.

Wojtek Sawa was also a guest speaker in the winter Polish 2710 class where he introduced “The Wall Speaks Project” and talked about his artistic process. The students clearly enjoyed his presentation.

WSU students can study Polish language, literature and culture while working toward a degree in Slavic Studies with the Polish concentration, take Polish to fulfill university requirements, or apply their credits in Polish toward a degree in Global Studies.