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UW-Eau Claire One of Few Universities Hosting
Faculty From Eastern Europe and Central Asia

 MAILED:  Nov. 25, 2003

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is one of 12 universities in the United States bringing faculty from newly independent states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to their campuses to help the scholars learn about Western-style higher education.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for everyone involved,” Karl Markgraf, director of the Center of International Education said of the Open Society Institute’s Faculty Development Program. “It gives the fellows a chance to learn how we do higher education in a free society. And it gives our students and faculty an opportunity to learn about parts of the world that are not widely known.”

UW-Eau Claire is one of a dozen universities in the United States hosting about 100 scholars through the program, Markgraf said, noting that UW-Eau Claire is “in good company” since other participating schools include such well-known institutions as Stanford, Cornell and Columbia universities. “By having scholars on campus from an area that has mostly been shut off from the world, we are giving our students a window to the world,” Markgraf said.

Teimuraz Papaskiri, a history professor from Tbilisi State University in Georgia, will join UW-Eau Claire’s history department in January 2004, making him the university’s fourth fellow through the program. In past years, the political science department hosted a scholar from Kazakhstan, the art department hosted a scholar from Georgia and the economics department hosted a scholar from Belarus.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to interact with and learn from a teacher and scholar from a region of the world not often represented at UW-Eau Claire,” Thomas Miller, chair of the history department, said of why he and his colleagues are looking forward to Papaskiri’s arrival. “This fellowship will benefit the entire university community as one more means to broaden and diversify our perspective.”

Hosting a fellow in the economics department offered students opportunities they would not otherwise have found on campus and reminded students and faculty about the value of a democracy, said Ed Young, chair of the economics department.

“Roman Prokopenko provided us with practical information about a part of the world that many people know little about,” Young said. “And his enthusiasm about our democracy and economy made us appreciate the benefits of the system we have in the West. It was a great pleasure to have him here.”

Fellows can spend up to three semesters at UW-Eau Claire during a three-year period. They must alternate semesters, returning to their home campuses for a semester after spending a semester at UW-Eau Claire.

During the first semester on campus, fellows participate in department activities, observe classes and interact with faculty and students in formal and informal ways, Markgraf said, noting they also often work on their English language skills and research textbooks. During return visits, they are invited to teach classes, he said.

Among the classes Prokopenko taught was a special topics class on the transition from a Soviet economy to a market economy, Young said. “Students were enthusiastic because it was information they wouldn’t normally be able to get here,” he said. “Economics is a global field so that kind of opportunity is valuable to our students.”

While the campus community benefits from the program, so too do the fellows. Spending time at a Western university can enhance the fellows’ teaching skills and help them make significant contributions to their universities when they return home, Young said.

“The beauty of the program is that there are no boundaries: you can teach, you can attend classes, you can do research using the library resources and you can experience the knowledge of colleagues from abroad,” said Roman Prokopenko, a scholar from Belarus who was a fellow in the economics department and is now completing his MBA at UW-Eau Claire via the Internet. “The program helped me become a global person. All fears of teaching elsewhere were eliminated and I feel myself belonging to the world, not just to any particular country.”

History scholar Teimuraz Papaskiri was one of 12 fellows selected from a pool of 60 eligible applicants to participate in the 2003 program, Markgraf said. An interview team consisting of representatives from participating institutions selected the fellows. Markgraf was on the interviewing team.

“The fellowship process is very competitive so we end up with outstanding participants,” Markgraf said. “Students and faculty have been impressed by the quality of the people we’ve brought to campus. I’m sure the same will be true of Teimuraz.”


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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
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Updated: November 25, 2003