University faculty members get recognized for global contributions

by Cati Vanden Breul

Zbigniew Bochniarz left his teaching position at the Warsaw School of Economics 21 years ago because of his opposition to Poland’s communist government.

Bochniarz, a former senior fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, moved to Minnesota with his family and was a University faculty member for more than two decades.

As director of the Institute’s Center for Nations in Transition for 12 years, the retired professor influenced the development of many Central and Eastern European economies after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today, the University’s Office of International Programs will award Bochniarz – along with two other faculty members – for their contributions to the world and the University.

This is the second year the office has given out Global Engagement awards.

From opposition member to transition leader

As a member of Poland’s Solidarity trade union, an anti-communist social movement founded in the country in 1980, Bochniarz said he was not able to publish his research.

“We were excluded from scholarship,” he said.

Ten million people joined the Solidarity movement in Poland, thousands of whom were arrested and many others who left the country.

After fleeing Poland, Bochniarz and his wife got positions at the University teaching economics courses.

“The (Polish) government wanted to get rid of us,” Bochniarz said. “It was a really big shock when we arrived here with our family, but it was a really great opportunity for us; the Americans showed us their values and embraced us.”

Bochniarz led a consortium of faculty from universities around the nation and abroad that helped reform the economies of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary after the Soviet Union collapsed.

“We influenced the policymakers, the universities, the businesspeople and (non-governmental organizations),” Bochniarz said, “and I’m pleased it was not just a one-way exchange. We gained a lot from those countries too.”

Bochniarz is grateful to the University for giving him a place to grow as a scholar, something he could not do in Poland, he said.

“They embraced me and gave me the opportunity to develop my talents and I tried to pay them back for their original endowment,” he said.

Fighting the global tobacco epidemic

Smoking-related deaths and illnesses are not just a problem in the United States, said School of Public Health professor Harry Lando, who will receive an award for his focus on reducing international tobacco use.

Worldwide, five million people die annually from smoking, Lando said, and the number is expected to jump to 10 million by 2030.

“Given that, I’ve been really concerned about what was happening outside of the U.S. and what we can do to combat the tobacco epidemic,” he said.

In 2002, Lando served as the president of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

“I made my biggest priority as president to be more globally focused,” he said, “to raise the profile of work that needs to be done in the developing countries.”

Lando is currently working on a project funded by the National Institutes of Health to reduce tobacco use in India and Indonesia. Measures as simple as printing larger warning labels on cigarette packaging and raising the price of cigarettes can make a difference, he said.

Offering law students opportunities abroad

Because of Meredith McQuaid, an associate dean in the law school, University law students have more opportunities than ever to study abroad.

McQuaid was hired in 1994 to serve as the University’s Director of International Programs.

At the time, law students had two options for spending semesters abroad. They now have eight, including a new program in Uruguay.

During her tenure, McQuaid has expanded the law school’s master’s law program for international lawyers.

“There’s nothing I like better than watching foreign lawyers graduate and be proud of their law degree from Minnesota,” McQuaid said. “One person at a time, we’re making an impact around the world.”

The dean recently led an effort to open the first master’s program offered by an American university in China. The program will begin in Beijing this summer.

“This is an award I’m flattered to receive,” McQuaid said. “The great thing about our work is we are paid to think and act globally; we get to share the best of the U.S. with the best of the rest of the world.”

The honorees receive $2,000 a year for three years, said Kathleen Sellow, associate director of the Office of International Programs. Retired recipients receive a one-time award of $3,000.