IU and the University of Warsaw

A mutually meaningful partnership for 40 years

IU and the University of Warsaw recently marked their fourth decade of collaboration.

On June 2, 2016, IU President Michael McRobbie and Marcin Palys, president of the University of Warsaw, proudly signed and displayed agreements renewing the 40-year partnership between their respective institutions. Building on the strong and meaningful partnership that has persisted all these years, the two leaders agreed that the time is ripe to expand collaboration across academic areas where the two universities share considerable strengths.

Reflecting on decades of collaboration

Despite a lack of trust and misunderstanding that marked relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, visionary leaders at both institutions agreed in 1976 to engage in a partnership that led to the establishment of two area studies centers that have experienced great success over the past four decades: the American Studies Center in Warsaw and the Polish Studies Center in Bloomington.

To listen to members of the current University of Warsaw faculty talk is to understand how meaningful this partnership has been, both now and then. At a time when Polish scholars felt isolated from the rest of the world, in the 1970s and 1980s, IU's connection with the American Studies Center in Warsaw was truly the first of its kind with a partner institution in east-central Europe, and the center’s library served as the only open access library east of Berlin. Many of those who used the center and who visited or attended IU graduated to major roles in academia, government and public policy, both before and after the fall of communism in 1989.

Indiana University symbolized for Polish visitors what America stood for: freedom, opportunity and creativity. We returned to Poland with new ideas and open minds.

Professor Bohdan Szklarski, Director of the American Studies Center at the University of Warsaw

Celebrating a rich history, looking toward new beginnings

The special 40th anniversary celebration of the IU-UW partnership featured several distinguished guests, including Polish Ambassador to the U.S. Ryszard Schnepf and past and present UW leaders. To commemorate the occasion, the two universities launched the Krzysztof Michałek Memorial Lecture in American Studies, named for one of the former directors of the American Studies Center in Warsaw who also spent two years at IU as associate director of the Polish Studies Center. John Bodnar, IU Distinguished and Chancellor's Professor of History, delivered the inaugural lecture at the celebration on the topic of war and memory.

That Poland has recovered and rebounded so successfully and dynamically after many decades of tragedy and horror to be once again one of the leading countries of Europe is a testimony to the extraordinary resilience and moral courage of the Polish people.

John Bodnar, IU Distinguished and Chancellor’s Professor of History

Fittingly for a celebration of 40 years of collaboration, the ceremony concluded with two major exchanges. First, McRobbie presented the Thomas Hart Benton Mural Medallion to UW President Palys, in recognition of the landmark and successful partnership between the two universities. Palys later bestowed upon McRobbie UW’s prestigious Bicentenary Medal of the University, also in recognition of the 40 years of active partnership between the two institutions.

UW Rector Zygmunt Rybicki and IU President John Ryan established the American Studies Center at UW and the Polish Studies Center at IU in October 1977 (top left). IU President Thomas Ehrlich visited the American Studies Center at UW in March 1992 (top right). Current IU President Michael McRobbie presents the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion to UW President Marcin Palys.

McRobbie focused his closing remarks on the future of the IU-UW collaboration. "As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our partnership, and as the American Studies Center and the Polish Studies Center enter the next phase of their operation, I am confident that the partnership between our institutions will continue to thrive," he said.

Adapted from the blog IU Goes to Italy and Poland