From Romania to New Hampshire: A Lasting Partnership

June 26th, 2006 by Adam

Over the past four years, Plymouth State University has formed a bond with faculty, staff and students at a Romanian university thousands of miles away. Babes-Bolyai University, located in Cluj, Romania, serves more than 40,000 students in baccalaureate, graduate and post-graduate programs, offering multicultural and multilingual classes in Romanian, Hungarian, German and English. But despite differences in size, language and location, BBU and PSU have built a lasting partnership that administrators at BBU call one of the university’s “most enduring and fruitful relationships.”

Most recently, PSU celebrated this partnership by awarding Dr. Andrei Marga, president of the BBU Academic Council and former BBU rector, with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on May 20. Marga, a dynamic leader who has launched a comprehensive educational reform at BBU, spoke highly of the relationship between his university and PSU, and the multicultural benefits both institutions have experienced as a result of that relationship.

The academic and cultural exchange between the two universities began in 2002, when social science professor Bruce Heald delivered a lecture at Babes-Bolyai and returned to PSU filled with ideas about how to build a connection between the two universities. In January 2003, fellow social science professor Horst Freyhofer traveled to Cluj to teach a course on existential philosophy in German.

The next year, a group of PSU professors and President Donald P. Wharton traveled to Romania to sign a cooperation agreement between PSU and BBU. In the Winter 2004 issue of Plymouth Magazine, President Wharton described his experiences teaching a weeklong graduate seminar in American studies. He complimented Dr. Andrei Marga and other leaders at BBU for their vision and commitment to high-quality, multicultural education, adding that the Romanian students he met were “the best evidence for a bright future for Romania.”

“The developing PSU/BBU relationship is of great mutual interest to both universities. We both share an interest in greater international exchanges and experiences for our faculty, students and interested alumni. We both have much to teach each other and to learn from each other. We both have rich histories and cultures to share. Together we can do many exciting, interesting and mutually beneficial things,” he wrote.

Business Professor Daniel Moore participated in that 2004 trip, and has returned to Babes-Bolyai since then. Moore helped arrange an international business course at PSU that involved a spring break trip to Romania. In the summer of 2005, Moore and PSU tourism and geography professor Mark Okrant held a tourism workshop in Romania. . He also spent time with Andrei Marga last month, driving him from the airport in Montreal to PSU for the commencement ceremony. During their drive, Marga and Moore discussed European and American philosophy, PSU’s transition from college to university and the similarities in landscape between New Hampshire and Romania.

“The partnership is blossoming,” said Moore. “I feel that there’s an easy connection between the two universities.”

Since the collaboration between the two universities began, faculty members from both institutions have enjoyed opportunities to teach courses in a different country. In the spring of 2005, Iosif Sandor, a faculty member at BBU’s department of sports and physical education, taught several courses for PSU’s health and human performance department. Professor Barbara McCahan, who traveled to Romania in 2004, said PSU students were impressed with Sandor’s expertise. McCahan and Sandor stay in touch by e-mail and are planning future collaborations in research, teaching and publications.

This month, Horst Freyhofer returned to BBU to teach another course for the university’s philosophy department. This is his fourth trip to Romania.