Wayne State University

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German Marshall Fund fellows visit WSU

December 19, 2013

German Marshall Fund Fellows Erzsébet Gulyás, Karolina Wigura and Petr Just with Ahmad Ezzeddine (second from left), associate vice president for international programs.

Three future European leaders – an urban planner from Hungary, a writer from Poland and a political scientist from the Czech Republic – made a five-day visit to Detroit recently as guests of Wayne State University, a regional partner with the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The three professionals, who from Oct. 5-10 attended tours and talks that explored sociopolitical and cultural aspects of the Motor City, were fellows with the Marshall Memorial Fellowship (MMF), an exchange program for emerging public and private sector leaders that is designed to strengthen cultural and economic ties between Europe and America. The MMF is administered by GMF, which in 2010 selected Wayne State to represent the Detroit area in receiving European fellows and selecting Detroit-area fellows to visit Europe.

The three fellows traveled in the United States for three weeks, each following  a different itinerary after their Detroit stop based on the learning objectives they specified in their fellowship applications. Erzsébet Gulyás, an architect who is currently studying sociology and social anthropology at the Central European University in Budapest, is the founder of Reflect Studio, which develops rural areas and empowers minority and impoverished groups through the built environment. Gulyás devoted her fellowship to studying social architectural projects and successful use of the built environmental to decrease ethnic- and income-based discrimination.

Warsaw-based Karolina Wigura, an award-winning author and political writer and editor for the liberal online weekly “Kultura Liberalna,” requested opportunities to network with political writers and civic leaders and to study the American tradition of liberalism as it can be applied to Polish liberal culture. Wigura, who is also assistant professor in the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Sociology and conducts post-doctoral research on the role of strong negative emotions in politics at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria, also asked to meet the editorial teams of major American media outlets.

Finally, Petr Just, an administrator and assistant professor of political science at Metropolitan University in Prague, specializes in comparative politics within Central Europe, select Western European nations and the United States. Just, who in 2002 studied unicameral legislative reform in Nebraska, asked to visit governmental and political entities while in the United States and visit places connected with major historical and political milestones. He also sought opportunities to visit universities in order to forge collaborations with U.S.-based political scientists.

For the fellows’ stay in Detroit, Wayne State organized activities around key themes. A day devoted to Detroit’s urban issues and revitalization included a documentary on the history of Detroit, a tour of the WSU Police Department followed by “ride-alongs,” and a talk by Dan Kinkead, executive director at Detroit Future City. Another day, devoted to business and innovation in Detroit, included talks by executives with Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and Eastern Market. Yet another day was devoted entirely to education and community, and featured a tour of Osborn High School and presentations by executives from Skillman Foundation and Midtown Detroit, Inc.

Noting that Czech media present “surface coverage” of Detroit’s bankruptcy and other difficulties, Just said it was exciting to visit “the pillar of industry” he had learned about in his history classes and learn about “consequences and potential.”

Wigura said she was struck by the city’s “energy” and the contrast between the experiences of social classes, while Gulyás said she “fell in love with the city within the first 20 minutes.” She praised Detroit’s architecture and opportunities for studying the built environment.

“It’s fascinating – there are a lot of phenomena to study here,” Gulyás said. “It’s important to look behind the vacancies. Always I’m asking ‘how?’ and ‘why?’”

American and European fellows travel during one of three 24-day programs organized each year in the spring, summer and fall. More information on the program is available here: http://www.gmfus.org/programs/tli/marshall-memorial-fellowship/