Dear members of the REEI community,
The spring semester was off to a brilliant start, our schedule packed chock-full with exciting events, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought campus life to a screeching halt. Recent events have left us all grieving the loss of life and the suffering that exists in our country. Today, thousands of people march in cities around the nation not only demanding a reckoning of the individual acts racism and bigotry faced daily by people of color, but also protesting the existence of a structural framework that facilitates social and economic oppression. At REEI, we remain ever committed to promoting equality and empowerment of marginalized people by helping our students develop awareness of injustices and tools for implementing change. We aspire to the values that are eloquently captured in the message from Vice President James C. Wimbush and the ASEEES Statement Condemning Systemic Racism and Police Brutality.
In this time of sadness and uncertainty, I am deeply grateful to all in the REEI community—staff, affiliate faculty, students, administrators, and friends. The extraordinary circumstances have made balancing our professional and personal responsibilities particularly challenging. In light of these hardships, I am that much more thankful for your hard work and unswerving support, which have allowed us to maintain REEI on a steady course!
Just before the campus closed, IU hosted the first international Taras Shevchenko Conference, organized under the enthusiastic leadership of Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed, Ph.D. student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures. The conference featured an impressive line-up of presentations that explored Ukrainian topics from the perspectives of history, sociology, anthropology, literary studies, linguistics, media studies, and others. During the two-day conference, participants were also invited to attend an event co-sponsored a by the Ukrainian Studies Organization and REEI, during which Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, delivered remarks and was presented with the inaugural Richard G. Lugar Award as part of the Hamilton-Lugar School’s fifth annual conference on America’s Role in the World.
As classes and all other interactions migrated into virtual space, we continued to work tirelessly to maintain our engagement with the REEI community and beyond. Dr. Justin Otten, REEI alumnus and Director of Global Health Affairs at Indiana University, taught the new REEI course “Current Issues in Eastern Europe” to twenty-three students. Even though the class took place mostly online, is was very successful. Likewise, plans for the annual REEI’s Poster Exhibition showcasing our students’ MA Essay research have been thwarted by campus closure, so we came up with a new way to feature our students’ work: the REEI Podcast Show. Congratulations to the winner Kaitlyn Lee on her “How a Language can be Political: The Story of Croatian” and the runner-up Bryce W. Hecht on his “Land Reform and Authoritarian Regime Stability Evidence from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, 1991-2005.”
News reports highlighting the impact of the pandemic in Europe have led us to team up with other centers at the Hamilton-Lugar School of Global Studies in organizing the Virtual Conference “COVID-19 in Europe.” We assembled three panels of internationally-renowned experts to discuss topics such as the erosion of democracy in East-Central Europe, newly exposed weaknesses in the EU's political and financial structure, and new social and political challenges for migrant communities. You can watch the recorded conference here.
In this issue of REEIfication we say our final goodbyes to Krzysztof Penderecki and Irene W. Meister. One of the world’s most distinguished composers, Penderecki passed away in Poland, on March 29. Maestro Penderecki visited IU Bloomington in 2017 at the invitation of the Hamilton-Lugar School of Global Studies, for a series of momentous events organized in collaboration with the Jacobs School of Music and the Polish Studies Center. During the visit Penderecki received an Honorary Doctorate from President Michael McRobbie and participated in the performance of his monumental St. Luke Passion. We also remember IU alumna Irene W. Meister (class of 1949), whose extraordinary career paved the way for women in public policy. Dr. Meister, who was passionate about mentoring those who came behind her, had bequeathed a fellowship in her name for REEI students. We are thrilled to be able to award the inaugural Meister Fellowship to an incoming student in Fall 2020.
In the normal world, Professor Arthur Benoit (Ben) Eklof’s retirement after forty-three years at IU Department of History would have been fêted with a jubilant party. Ben’s rich and multifaceted contributions to scholarship and his extraordinary dedication to his students are detailed in the article that honors him. We owe Ben a particular debt of gratitude for his steadfast support for and generous service to REEI. It is difficult to imagine a better and more selfless colleague, always willing to offer guidance and contribute to time-consuming duties. We look forward to a time when it will be possible to celebrate Professor Eklof’s retirement in person, with all the customary bells and whistles. In the meantime, we wish him success with his ambitious research and publication schedule, and hope he leaves some time to enjoy his favorite pastimes!
Best wishes to Lieutenant Colonel Angela Reber, who spent the year at Hamilton Lugar School as the inaugural Army War College Fellow, and to John Romero, who is finishing his tenure as Postdoctoral Fellow at the Russian Studies Workshop. As they depart for their new jobs, we thank them for the new and meaningful ways they contributed in to the intellectual vitality of REEI!
I look forward to seeing you all in person, perhaps at the fall reception, with Sarah Philips presiding over the festivities and me back in my “civilian” role. I cherished every moment of my time as the interim director. It was a true joy to get to know the REEI community better, and to experience the kindness and support you so readily offered throughout this year. Most importantly, I could not have done the job without having Mark Trotter and Elliott Nowacky in my corner. Thank you for everything!
I sign off with my parents’ favorite Yiddish salutation that seems particularly appropriate these days:
Halina Goldberg, Interim Director, REEI