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WSU law professor's Fulbright in Croatia turns one opportunity into many

November 6, 2013

Prof. Peter Henning, center, pictured with some of his students at the University of Zagreb

When Wayne State Law School Professor Peter Henning received a Fulbright to teach in Croatia earlier this year, he considered the award a discrete academic experience that would begin and end with a plane ride. But he soon realized that a Fulbright is an introduction to new opportunities.

“When you get a Fulbright you view it as an end, and it turns out it’s a start,” said Henning, an expert in white collar crime who taught the subject at the University of Zagreb from February until July. “The opportunity lets you make connections you never would have. People get the chance to know you, and when they know you they will include you in future programs.”

For Henning, who also specializes in constitutional criminal procedure and attorney ethics, the key to networking was simply making himself available. In addition to teaching his course, he volunteered to guest lecture for the department’s law faculty and participated in a one-week “mini course” on corporate crime for law and graduate students in the seaside city of Dubrovnik. At the same time, he traveled to the Ukraine and Armenia to train judges and lawyers in the western style of criminal justice that former Soviet nations are embracing to satisfy expectations of membership in the European Council and advance their goal of joining the European Union. He went to the Ukraine a second time to participate in a U.S. Embassy-run training program for prosecutors, teaching them how to prepare, present, examine and cross-examine witnesses.

“I said, I’m here for four months: use me,” Henning noted.

Getting active proved to be a smart strategy. Though based in a small Balkan country of just over four million people, Henning found himself engaging an international body of professionals, academics and students that presented valuable contacts and pushed him to take a broader look at his own field.

Law Faculty, University of Zagreb, Croatia

“I couldn’t just teach American law; that would not have been very useful as a stand-alone class,” said Henning, whose class contained 35 students from nine different countries. “Instead, we looked at things from a comparative perspective, which required me to be familiar with Croatian, European and U.S. law in order to understand the different ways that white collar crime is addressed. I had to learn a lot to teach the class.”

Henning, who published a course book on criminal pretrial advocacy this summer and has a treatise on security crimes due out in a few months, said he tried to maximize his chances of receiving a Fulbright award by requesting a placement in Croatia, which was seeking experts on white collar crime. He has already incorporated his Fulbright experience into a scholarly article and is beginning to enjoy the rewards of making connections overseas. Among these are his introduction to the relatively small community of European academics who study white collar crime as well as his contribution to a grant proposal that, if accepted, would allow him to return to Croatia to conduct research.

He’s also helping move past the mystique surrounding the Fulbright program, encouraging others to explore its many options.

“In the past, when I met someone who had a Fulbright I was always amazed,” Henning said. “But it’s not a mysterious process – in fact, it’s really a lot of fun. For students or for faculty, it’s a nice opportunity.”