Anthony Arnone | September 25, 2023

Polish Professor of American Studies Visits Brockport

American Studies Professor Jolanta Szymkowska-Bartyzel from Jagiellonian University visited SUNY Brockport to conduct teaching observations, guest lecture, and speak with students and faculty.

Professor from Poland with students from EuroSim club

Professor Jolanta Szymkowska-Bartyzel from the Institute of American Studies and Polish Diaspora visited SUNY Brockport from September 18 – 23, 2023 to learn about our professor’s teaching methods and bring that knowledge back to her colleagues in Poland.

“Our university sends Polish academics to watch how the process of teaching works at other institutions and take inspiration,” Szymkowska-Bartyzel said. “We hope to learn something new, then bring those ideas back to our university.”

Professor of Sociology Kyle Green originally met Szymkowska-Bartyzel while he was giving a research talk at Utica College on physical culture and men building community through learning to fight in mixed martial arts gyms. After returning to Poland, Szymkowska-Bartyzel reached out to Green about visiting Jagiellonian University as part of the PROM program – an international exchange scholarship for PhD students and academic staff to participate in short forms of education.

Professor Jolanta Szymkowska-Bartyzel

“He (Green) shared his research, gave lectures on storytelling and motivation and also led a workshop on research methods for our graduate students,” Szymkowska-Bartyzel said.

Green spent a handful of weeks in Poland cultivating a partnership with Szymkowska-Bartyzel who expressed interest in visiting SUNY Brockport and learning from our professors. Green worked with his department to arrange a weeklong academic visit to Brockport for Szymkowska-Bartyzel.

“It was an amazing opportunity for our students and I am extremely thankful for the generosity of the European Union and Jagiellonian University in funding the trip and encouraging cultural exchange,” Green said. “I am honored that faculty from such an old and distinguished University want to learn from what we do here and I look forward to continuing the build the relationship between our two institutions.”

During Szymkowska-Bartyzel’s visit she took part in six hours of guest lecturing where she discussed Polish media, the influence of popular American culture on Poland, and the political and social complications of the Russia Ukraine war. She also sat in on multiple sociology classes and classes offered by the Department of Political Science and International Studies to watch Brockport professors in action. To finish her visit, Szymkowska-Baryzel took part in lunch organized by the Sociology Club and EuroSim for an informal discussion on Polish culture, her own research, and anything else the students were interested in discussing.

“I am hoping to take back what I learned from Brockport and to increase classroom engagement.”
Professor Jolanta Szymkowska-Bartyzel

“There is a huge difference between how American and Polish students engage in the classroom,” Szymkowska-Bartyzel said. “Our students may even be afraid to ask questions sometimes. Which is very different than what I observed here.”

Szymkowska-Bartyzel attributes this in part to cultural differences that result from the country’s infancy as a democracy. From 1989 - 1991, Poland went through a transition in government from Communist Party rule to a democratic government, leading to the first elections that were held in the country since the 1920s.

“Generally, our school system follows a much more traditional model of education where only the teacher is right,” Szymkowska-Bartyzel said. “When students come to our institute, we need to encourage them to be more active and ask questions. I am hoping to take back what I learned from Brockport and to increase classroom engagement.”