Bogdana Neamțu

Fulbright Visiting Scholar, 2018-2019
My Fulbright 4-months journey at University of Georgia, Athens (UGA) started on a warm and sunny day, on March 1st 2019, with a guided tour of the lovely UGA campus. Picture below depicts me during the initial tour with the UGA mascot, in front of the Tate Student Center.

My Fulbright mentor, Dr. Rusty Brooks (picture below to the left), accompanied me, together with another colleague of his, Dr. Tudor Vlad (picture below to the right). For my entire stay at UGA I was fortunate enough to have 2 mentors, 2 offices and 2 teams of colleagues. My official Fulbright mentor, Dr. Brooks is the Director of the International Center at Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Dr. Brooks and Dr. Vlad are currently implementing a research grant together. This is why I also became affiliated with Dr. Vlad’s team at Cox Center. In addition to my own Fulbright research, I had the opportunity to get involved in a comparative research closely related to my research interests and to develop in connection with my 2 mentors a similar research to be conducted / replicated in Romania after my return to my home university.

Some of the most important activities and research components of my Fulbright grant are described below.

1. Research on university engagement and engaged scholarship at US universities, with the aim of identifying best practices that could be adapted to the Romanian higher education system.

US is perhaps the best place where to study university engagement. This is mainly due to the tradition associated with land grant universities which goes back in time more than a century ago but also to a process of expanding the engagement paradigm to non-land grant universities. Most US universities are currently implementing a rather sophisticated package of activities under engagement, including economic develop support for SMes, outreach, extension services, service learning, etc. These activities are supported by an impressive institutional architecture and dedicated budgets. In my research I looked at a variety of US universities, both land grants and non-land grants. I made visits to the cities where these universities are located and I met with both university staff and city administrators. To my surprise I discovered a great variety of strategies regarding university engagement, mainly due to context-driven factors. The practical purpose of my empirical research in the US was to build an expertise set and to try to move policy and administrative structures in Romania to integrate this paradigm of university engagement into the Romanian universities.

Picture below to the left depicts me during my visit at Oakland University, Michigan, with Dr. Kevin Corcoran, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Picture to the right is from the visit to North Carolina State University, where I met among others with Leslie Boney, Director, Institute for Emerging Issues. Picture in the middle is with former mayor of Augusta, Deke Copenhaver.

2. Comparative research at UGA and Babes Bolyai University on communication of county commissioners from rural communities

Cox Center and Carl Vinson Institute are currently implementing a research on the communication practices of county commissioners from rural Georgia. The grant, which is currently under implementation, investigates ways in which county commissioners can better engage with their constituencies and endeavors to equip the commissioners with strategies and tools to make their public communication more effective. The research was interesting for me and closely linked to my own Fulbright research because it also focused on ways in which UGA can assist these commissioners. From this perspective, it was the perfect example of university engagement with community stakeholders. Upon returning to Romania, I will be working with a team of researchers from Babes-Bolyai University toward replicating the research in the Romanian context. The rural communities have already been selected in Romania and interviews with county commissioners are under way. The comparative research will allow scholars from both universities to gain a better understanding of the challenges elected officials in different national jurisdictions are faced with and to devise strategies for supporting them in this respect. It will also allow me to explore if local elected representatives are willing to work with university experts.

3. Developing institutional connections between UGA and other US universities and my home university

During my stay in Athens I worked closely with various entities at UGA towards strengthening the partnership that was already in place between UGA and Babes Bolyai University. As a result, a joint certification (UGA-BBU) of master programs offered at BBU in English in the areas of public administration was established. Joint teaching of courses in Cluj will be taking place in the future together with other common activities such as research and staff and students exchanges.

Another partner university from US is University of Delaware. My school has been working with University of Delaware for a long time. During my visit to University of Delaware in april 2019, I met with prof. A. Loessner and prof, M. Aristigueta to discuss our future cooperation. I also interacted with graduate students of the Biden School at UDEL regarding the possibility to attend a winter school in Romania in 2020. The winter school has been in place for more than 10 years and it is focused on graduate comparative research and policy advising. Its success is due to this longstanding partnership between the two universities and the commitment of dedicated staff on both sides.

4. Dissemination of Fulbright research results

At the end of my Fulbright grant, on June 26th 2019, I presented the results of my research to the colleagues from Carl Vinson Institute. Laura Meadows, the director of the institute, together with Paul Brooks, Associate Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, attended the presentation. My presentation focused on the Romanian context of higher education – challenges that universities face in terms of engaging with the communities where they are located and with community stakeholders and how US best practices in this field could be adapted to the Romanian context. As part of my presentation I discussed my intentions of continuing my research of university engagement and engaged scholarship and I mentioned to my colleagues from UGA ways in which the two universities could cooperate in this area.

5. Traveling and exploring US cultures and landscapes

Fulbright is not just about research and academic events. At least for me, it was also about meeting new people, experiencing the local food, trying to understand different values. Before the beginning of my Fulbright, I was able to travel to New York, Washington, Charleston and Savannah. Pictures shown below are from Washington (White House, left) and from Charleston, SC (right). Picture in the middle is from a trip to Helen, Georgia, with other Fulbright scholars at UGA.

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