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Beyond the Books

Far from the Oak Grove and the IUP campus, Anna Nadgrodkiewicz walked through a street market in India. Cows roamed freely in the crowds as she stopped to look at colorfully embroidered clothes. Though she was moved by the warmth of the people and the beauty of the land, her visit to the country had more to do with the culture of Poland than the culture of India. At twenty-two, the IUP senior had come to present her research findings on her native country at a conference at the University of Delhi South Campus.  

Anna Nadgrodkiewicz

Anna Nadgrodkiewicz in Sutton Hall's Blue Room

“It was a great opportunity to get to know an enclave of people interested in my region in a remote country, remote from my perspective,” she said. “I feel very attached to my country. When I have the chance to act as an ambassador of my country in other parts of the world, that's a great opportunity.” She was the only undergraduate giving a presentation at the two-day conference, held last March. The IUP President’s Office provided financial help for the trip.

Nadgrodkiewicz gracefully took her place at the conference among professors and other scholars to talk about her paper, titled “Decade of Polish Transformation: In Search for Identity and Happiness in the New Times.” In it, she evaluated the changes that have taken place since the fall of communism about a decade ago and drew conclusions about the transition into democracy and capitalism.

She was ten in 1989 when communism fell in Poland. “I'm definitely happy about the end of communism,” she said. “The communists had no business being there. It was imposed on Poland. It separated us from the West and the path of development we should have been following.”

Although there are many new freedoms, she said there are also hardships in the new Poland. “You get so used to those freedoms that you forget that they weren't always there,” she said. “Every time I go to Poland, I feel the mood of the people is discouraged. Unemployment is high. People are disillusioned and impatient.”

Nadgrodkiewicz, from Kielce in southeastern Poland, first learned about IUP from a letter inviting her to attend the Robert E. Cook Honors College.  Enrolling in the college as a freshman, Nadgrodkiewicz graduated from IUP in May with a bachelor's degree in international studies and minors in German and economics.

During the week of the conference in India, she was housed at the Polish embassy. She had the chance to ride an elephant, see the Taj Mahal, and talk with diplomats and scholars at parties at other embassies. “It's an opportunity for networking and exchanging ideas,” said Nadgrodkiewicz, who speaks English, Polish, German, and some Russian. “I met presenters from Poland, Russia, and Bulgaria. It was a tremendous opportunity to talk with them and exchange our views.”

Not along after she returned from India, she learned of her selection for one of Phi Kappa Phi’s Graduate Fellowships.  With the fellowship, she will be able to pursue a master’s degree this fall in Georgetown University’s German and European Studies Program.

Nadgrodkiewicz's experience in India was not the first time she was invited to make a presentation at a conference. Two years ago, she was the only undergraduate presenter at the University of Toronto Conference on Emigration and Exile from Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. That same year, she took part in the 35th Annual National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, presenting a paper on the works of two Polish poets and serving as a member of a panel focused on critical thinking in college honors programs. As a member of the IUP Model United Nations team, she served as a delegate to the National Model United Nations in New York last April.

Nadgrodkiewicz was a Provost's Scholar at IUP, a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi (the IUP Chapter nominated her for the national fellowship), and a member of four other honor societies. For three years, she held a part-time job at IUP’s Translation Center (see Winter-Spring, 2001, IUP Magazine).

While receiving her education at IUP, she often traveled as a means of learning. Nadgrodkiewicz has participated in about a dozen conferences and seminars covering a variety of issues. These opportunities have taken her all over the U.S.  She also did a Washington internship in the U.S. Department of State International Information Programs office.

Three years ago, she took an IUP-sponsored class at Poland’s University of Poznan. Last summer, she traveled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana as part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Summer Honors Program. Ten days after returning, she attended the Political Economy Research Center's free market environmentalism seminar in Bozeman, Montana. Two weeks later, she traveled to Vienna, Austria, to take part in the Robert E. Cook Summer Honors Program.

She is driven to pursue these opportunities by her sense of adventure and her academic drive. “I think it's a mixture of several issues,” she said. “It’s what made me want to study abroad—the challenge and the desire to reach beyond what’s common.”