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UW-Eau Claire Alumni in
Baltics and Poland to Meet
MAILED: Sept. 16, 1999|
The 70 or so alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who are living and working in the Baltic states and Poland will have a chance to interact during a conference in late February 2000 in Riga, Latvia.
The alumni gathering will be possible because of a $107,401 grant UW-Eau Claire received from the United States Information Agency, Office of Citizen Exchanges, in Washington, D.C.
"This will be the first time that UW-Eau Claire will have an international alumni gathering of this magnitude," said Hilda Moleski, foreign student adviser in the Center for International Education, noting that it's also the first time the alumni of several international exchange scholarship programs will gather in a formal way. "We'll really be doing a lot of firsts with this alumni project."
In addition to the alumni conference, the grant monies also will allow top administrators from Non-Governmental Organizations in the Baltics to study fund raising and grant writing in the United States and in Latvia. The NGO addresses social, legal, business and other related problems that are important to the building of a democratic society. Examples include the rights of the homeless, protection of street children, professionalism in police training, environmental protection, and adult education and retraining to reduce unemployment. As current funding for those programs disappear, it's important that key members of the NGO staff learn how to raise dollars on their own to remain self-sufficient, said Karl Markgraf, director of the Center for International Education at UW-Eau Claire.
The ultimate goal of the alumni event in Latvia will be to help UW-Eau Claire alumni who have returned to their homelands in this region develop a professional network, Markgraf said. Students from the Baltics and Poland who study at UW-Eau Claire are often selected for scholarship programs because of their leadership potential and this event will help them maximize that potential now that they've returned home, Markgraf said.
"They really are the best and brightest," Markgraf said of the students from the Baltic States who are selected to study at UW-Eau Claire. "Those 70 or so alumni are very talented, intelligent and gifted. They are taking on significant roles in leadership in industry and government. This conference will be our first concentrated effort to speak with them as a group."
Moleski has been in touch with some of the alumni in recent months, asking them to provide input into what the conference should include. "They are very excited," Moleski said of the alumni reaction to the February event, which also will receive funding from the Soros Foundation.
In addition to creating networking opportunities for the alumni from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, the conference will help participants understand how to use and support the NGOs and provide participants with fundraising training, Moleski said. Issues that are of current interest in the Baltics and Poland also will be discussed during the conference, she said.
UW-Eau Claire which has been sending students to Latvia since 1991 when Latvia secured its independence is the only American university that has established a successful study abroad program with the University of Latvia. UW-Eau Claire, which sends between 10 and 15 students to Latvia each year, provides one of just two programs of study for Americans in the country. Dr. Paulis Lazda, a professor of history at UW-Eau Claire, helped create the program with his home country and remains actively involved in helping to continue to build it as new opportunities are identified, Markgraf said.
Organizations such as the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute and the Baltic/Eastern Europe Awards Program have helped dozens of students from the Baltics and Poland study at UW-Eau Claire, Markgraf said, adding that for the last three years, UW-Eau Claire has hosted the largest group of OSI undergraduate scholars in the country.
"We have a unique connection to Latvia," Markgraf said of UW-Eau Claire. "It's a vigorous and ongoing relationship. Through this conference, young leaders will network with each other and stay connected to UW-Eau Claire. And those connection are very exciting."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Sept. 16, 1999