Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Host University

My Host University

The Poznan University of Economics, my host for this academic year and during my 6-month Fulbright fellowship in 2012, has begun to feel like my second professional home. I'm as comfortable in my office here as I am at UNC Charlotte, and I feel the same strong allegiance to each fine institution. In some respects, it's hard for me to sense any real distinction between my responsibilities to the two universities.

My awareness of and connection with PUE began in 2005 when I received an e-mail from Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak, a public relations professor and thought leader in the discipline. I had not previously met Dr. Ławniczak, but he said PUE was hosting a conference on international public relations and asked if I would agree to be a keynote speaker for the event.  He indicated he and his students had been using some of my published materials and thought I would be a good fit. The timing was perfect -- immediately following the 4-week course on international PR I would be teaching in London that summer.  With a longstanding wish to visit Poland (which I'll explain in a subsequent post), I seized the opportunity. My wife and I flew from London to Krakow, then traveled by train to Poznan.

Participants in the 2005 PUE International PR Conference. Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak is seated in the front row, third from the left. I am seated at the far right of the front row. My PR colleagues will likely recognize a number of the other scholars.
That was the start of the now 10-year relationship I've enjoyed, and I believe and trust that the relationship will be amplified in the years to come. PUE comprises five main colleges ("faculties" in the direct translation from Polish): Economics, Commodity Science, International Business and Economics, Management, and Informatics and Electronic Economy.  There are also independent academic units in foreign languages, law, and sports/athletics. PUE operates its own publishing house as well. My home department here falls under the College (Faculty) of Economics and is called Katedra Publicystyki Ekonomicznej i Public Relations or Department of Economic Journalism and Public Relations. It's home to nine full-time faculty, each with impressive credentials and records of scholarship. Let me introduce you to several department ("katedra") members:

Department office managers Dorota Stępień (left) and Barbara Skiba
Barbara Skiba and Dorota Stępień are office managers, though they are shared between our department and one other, so demands on their time are relentless. Nevertheless, both Barbara and Dorota have been wonderful in helping me navigate the many challenges associated with learning new administrative systems. Dorota's English surpasses my Polish, so we communicate quite effectively, Barbara and I share German, so that is how we generally get our ideas across.

Dr. Filip Kaczmarek
Dr. Filip Kaczmarek teaches courses related to his interest in developing nations, especially ways in which communication can contribute to improving the human condition within the context of advances in infrastructure and other economic factors. Dr. Kaczmarek served for ten years as a member of the European Parliament in Brussels.

Dr. Izabela Janicka
Dr. Izabela Janicka specializes in teaching public relations messaging and product development in a strategic context. She previously taught German, and she is also very comfortable in English. Dr. Janicka rushed to my rescue when I was having difficulties creating the Moodle websites for the classes I'm teaching. I was so grateful she carved more than an hour out of her demanding schedule to navigate the barriers to getting my classes set up on the web platform. She also helped me decipher the touch-screen commands on the classroom lectern (all in Polish).

I have had nothing but warm and welcoming receptions from my colleagues here, and I don't think I've ever seen a harder working department.

Passing of a Great Leader

Before closing, I will comment sadly on the passing last week of a former boss for whom I retain the highest admiration and someone whose leadership style continues to influence me 25 years after I served on his staff and under his command.  U.S. Army General John Galvin capped his 44-year military career with five years as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the top military figure for the (then) 16-nation European security alliance.  It was my privilege to serve as director of media relations for the command (called Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe or SHAPE) in Belgium and as frequent press aide to Gen. Galvin during the critical final two years of his career, 1990-92. General Galvin passed away last week at 86 in Atlanta, Georgia.
General Galvin at a news conference, Germany, 1990

Here's a Washington Post article that captures a bit of General Galvin's extraordinary life: September 30 commentary by Harrison Smith. Please read about this remarkably gifted and driven individual. Yet despite his many accomplishments -- military leader, historian and author, college dean. artist, father and grandfather, global strategist, communicator -- the quality that was most striking to me was his genuine humility.  That quality was manifest in many ways, but one significant aspect of it was the way he sought, found and nurtured the best qualities in those who served with him. He was a penetratingly acute judge of character who took time to nudge people around him along a path of personal and professional development toward significant achievement.  He genuinely reveled in seeing those he mentored reach beyond themselves and do great things.  

Think of how the world changed during just his last military assignment with NATO: the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union; the reunification of Germany; the first Gulf War; the seeds of conflict in what was once Yugoslavia; an attempted coup in Russia, the precipitous drawdown of U.S. forces in Europe and the re-purposing of NATO.  He never had to worry about an empty in-basket! I watched him approach all these challenges analytically, pragmatically and decisively.  What an incredibly wise man.  Yet he always stayed firmly rooted in his humble beginning in Wakefield, Massachusetts. In fact, I returned with him on trips to the U.S. several times, coordinating media activities in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and elsewhere.  A couple times, he built visits back to Wakefield into his agenda, and I was fortunate to observe him in that setting.  He would proudly point out homes and recall which newspapers each home received -- he had delivered the papers as a young boy. One time we attended a ceremony at the high school he attended (now a junior high); the school was being renamed in his honor. Another time he was Grand Marshal of the town's modest Fourth of July parade. I think he took as much pleasure in those events as he did meeting with the heads of state of NATO member nations. I think he recognized that the values that served him well were nurtured in those early places, and those values underpinned his many life achievements. To the people in Wakefield, he was simply "Jack," and that suited him fine.

A few years ago, my wife, Robin, and I were traveling to Atlanta, so I contacted General Galvin and asked if we might drop in for a short visit.  He and Mrs. Galvin would be delighted, he assured us, and their warm and gracious welcome confirmed that.  He told me of the work he was doing, writing his memoirs, and proudly showed me the methodical approach he was taking, thanks to the hundreds of well-organized boxes of thousands of note cards he had maintained through his career.  I'm afraid I don't know whether he completed the work. I proudly presented him with a copy of my book (Global Public Relations: Spanning Borders, Spanning Cultures), recalling that he had served briefly as an Army public affairs officer. He took keen interest in the book and went carefully through the contents, remarking favorably on the importance of its scope.

I guess that's the connection to this blog from Poland. General Galvin was one of the leading architects of Europe following the end of the Cold War. In those precarious months and years after the fall of "The Wall," he often said his most important role was as a communicator, and he approached that responsibility assertively. Twenty-five years later, it's hard to imagine the extraordinary challenge it was to prepare for and conduct media interviews of such weight and impact. He was the first SACEUR to travel to the former Warsaw Pact states and did so with energy and hopefulness. When we were in Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and other capitals we had previously known only from maps, he was the face of the West, and he knew his words, gestures and expressions would set the tone for the years and decades ahead. I am so very grateful it was General Galvin undertaking that role. He was superb. Now, here in Poland, I'm observing and benefiting from the course he helped Europe chart in those critical years. Thank you, General Galvin. I'll try to make you proud.

The world has lost one of its great statesmen.


  1. Professor, he did, indeed, complete his memoir, which was published in April as "Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier's Memoir." His daughter, I like to think the book captured all of what you've so generously described and more. It's replete with telling anecdotes (he was a meticulous note-taker and his memoir draws heavily on his thousands of 3x5" cards and weekly letters home to his father). Thank you for the touching remembrance.

    1. Dear Ms Galvin,

      Thank you so much for the kind words and for alerting me to your father's memoirs. As soon as I read your comments, I quickly ordered the book on my Kindle, and I'm well into it already. What a marvelous writer he is! His style is so fluid I can hear the words on the page in his own voice. What a joy it would be to discuss the book with him.

      When my wife and I visited Gen. and Mrs. Galvin at their home in Atlanta a few years ago, I brought him a copy of my book, Global Public Relations: Spanning Borders, Spanning Cultures. I inscribed it to him, telling him how much he influenced my desire to write the book. He took a genuine interest in it, carefully reviewing the table of contents to see how I had organized it. I'm sure he never read it, but that was not my point -- I just wanted him to have a copy and know that he played an instrumental role in inspiring it.

      If I ever have the opportunity to teach a course in leadership, and I hope I will, your father's book will be required reading. I so enjoy how he describes so many instances throughout his life, however trivial they might appear, that in some way shaped his understanding of the responsibilities and characteristics of effective leadership. His humility shines through as he relates even his mistakes and how they contributed to the deepening and sharpening of the skills that propelled him to positions of consequence.

      Warmest wishes to you from Poznan, Poland.