Thursday, August 27, 2015

Deepening our Polish Connection

Deepening our Polish Connection

On September 15, my wife, Robin, and I will embark on another adventure in Poland.  This academic year, I will return to beautiful Poznań, Poland, supported by a second Fulbright fellowship.  During our first Fulbright in Poznań in 2012, I conducted research on the value of effective internal/employee communication in Polish organizations.  This time, I will be teaching courses in Public Relations.

My host institution this time, as it was in 2012, is the Poznan University of Economics.  I'm very grateful for the invitation to join its superb faculty and for the opportunity to work with PUE's outstanding students.  I have received tremendous help in preparing for this appointment from my counterpart at PUE, Dr. Jacek Trębecki, among Europe's leading Public Relations scholars.  My 2012 experience convinced me that the public relations program at PUE is of the highest quality based both upon the caliber of faculty and the focus of its curriculum.  It is a great honor to be associated directly with the delivery of instruction in this fine program during the 2015-16 academic year. 

Academic and professional results from this ongoing relationship with my PUE colleagues continue to accumulate.  They include to date:

  •  My feature article on the performing arts at UNC Charlotte published in a 2012 issue of Forum, PUE’s prestigious magazine.
  • A paper on our employee communication research presented at the important international public relations conference in Bled, Slovenia, July 2012.
  • A chapter I wrote for a book edited by PUE faculty member Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak, and a chapter he wrote for my text book on global public relations.
  • Presentations on the results of our research project for the South Carolina Public Relations Society of America annual conference (November 2012); as well as for faculty, staff and students of the London College of Communication (June 2013).
  • A paper, co-authored with Dr. Jacek Trębecki of PUE and based on our Fulbright-supported research project, presented at the April 2012 Conference on Global Public Relations hosted by the Center for Global Public Relations, Charlotte, NC.
  • A blog detailing my Fulbright experience I maintained during my 6-month fellowship; it included 23 posts and attracted nearly 9,000 visits (
  • An invited chapter in the 2014 book of international public relations case studies.  The chapter, co-authored with Dr. Jacek Trębecki and Katarzyna Konickiewicz of PUE, addresses the communication aspects of the Poznań Fan Zone, established in conjunction with Poznań’s hosting of EURO 2012 matches.
  • An article for PUE’s Forum in 2013 concerning a comparative analysis of public relations higher education between PUE and UNC Charlotte.
  • Two research papers presented by PUE faculty member Monika Bogdał at the April 2013 Conference on Global Public Relations, Charlotte, NC.
  • A paper co-authored with Dr. Jacek Trębecki, based on our 2012 Fulbright research project in Poznań, presented at the International PR Conference, Miami, FL, in March 2014.

Additionally, the research I conducted with the aid of my PUE faculty and graduate student colleagues resulted in extensive analysis of employee communication structures and processes within a number of companies in the Poznań region.  The exhaustive reports we provided to participating organizations have resulted in significant improvement in the quality of employee communication that, in turn, is leading to greater efficiencies, productivity and profitability.  I am so very proud to have contributed to Poland’s economic success even in this small way.

To continue strengthening this growing and productive bond, I will augment PUE’s curriculum by teaching a combination of existing and elective courses unique to my expertise.  This fall (term begins September 29), I will teach two graduate courses -- one in International Public Relations and the second in Internal/Employee Communication.  Although my Polish is improving, it is not sufficient for me to teach in that language.  Nevertheless, by teaching in English, I will be serving one of PUE’s aims – to equip its students with proficiency in English to make them even more competitive in a global environment.  The department I will be part of, in fact, offers several courses taught in English as part of that effort, and the university has now introduced several graduate programs taught exclusively in English.  My 2012 Fulbright experience confirmed that there are considerable numbers of PUE undergraduate and graduate students completely comfortable working fully in English.  As evidence, I submit my first PUE guest lecture during my 2012 Fulbright fellowship – that event attracted an overflow crowd of more than 200 students!

There are certainly pedagogical differences between U.S. and Polish approaches to higher education, but those differences only enhance the value this fellowship will bring.  While Polish instructors stress the theoretical and employ primarily lecture-based teaching methods, my approach tends more to a blend of the theoretical and the applied, and my delivery methods more directly engage students in discussion and practical problem solving.  My 2012 experience with PUE tells me Polish students adapt quickly and soon embrace this “hands-on” approach and that my participation would add a useful layer to an already outstanding curriculum.  I will not be in conflict with PUE pedagogical principles; on the contrary, my approach would not likely succeed without the solid theoretical grounding that permits thorough and thoughtful analysis of communication issues and problems. 

Some adjustments on my part will be necessary nevertheless.  For example, I’m accustomed to requiring UNC Charlotte students to purchase textbooks that often cost more than $100; that would not be prudent for courses I teach at PUE.  Instead, I will craft my courses to rely upon on-line and other open-access material available at no cost.  There is no shortage of such material through academic journals on line as well as agencies such as the Public Relations Society of America, the Institute for Public Relations and the International Association of Business Communicators.  

It would be difficult to overstate the pride and gratitude I feel in having been selected for my 2015/16 Fulbright fellowship.  At the same time, I’m humbled by the responsibility such a privilege conveys, and I strive to reflect the honor associated with it.  Concurrently, my respect and admiration for Poland and its people fuel my desire to return to this great country.  I have much more to learn there and, I hope, a modest contribution to make.

I will aim to post to this blog at least weekly during the next 10 months.  I promise to keep posts conversational and informative.  I'll mix business with the enjoyment of being in this wonderful country and sparkling city.  I hope you will subscribe to and follow these posts, and I hope you'll share your comments as well.  I look forward to meeting with you here next time.