Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Inauguration of the New School Year (Convocation)

Attended the interesting (and long - 3 hours) opening ceremony for the new school year. They were celebrating the fact that the national legislature had approved their upgrade to a University (they had been an Academy). There were many introductions of University administrators, representatives from different universities with whom they have exchange programs (including Grand Valley), and local and national politicians. They also had a nice initiation of about 20 students (those who scored highest on the entrance exam) who represented the incoming class of 6,000 or so; as well as a traditional speech by the Rector (equivalent of our University President).

Then they awarded an honorary doctorate to Jeffrey Sachs, an American economist known for his work as an economic advisor to governments in many areas including Eastern Europe. He is a Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, working with international agencies on problems of poverty reduction, debt cancellation, and disease control. He is one of the only academics to have been repeatedly ranked among the world's most influential people by Time magazine. One of the best parts of the ceremony for me was the speech he gave (in English, so my assistant didn't have to translate for me).

Then, there was a concert at the end! An interesting presentation by a very accomplished classical violinist accompanied by an equally good jazz pianist.

Afterwards I went to my office (quite nice - even has a window) and got the computer working. My book boxes still have not arrived, so I don't have materials for my classes. (I have tracked them down to the U.S. Consulate in Krakow, so they're close!) At least I have my computer files on a flash drive so I can get ready for my lectures (even if my students won't have anything to read).

We have been overwhelmed with the news from home: the young man who was killed in a car accident in Holland this past weekend was a very good friend of Alison's and was her boyfriend Scott's roommate. They are having a very difficult time, which makes it hard for us to be away.

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