In early November, Professor Péter Krekóand I were invited to talk to students and faculty at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina about the importance of international and area studies and to share our research on Hungarian nationalism.
I flew into Charleston the night before the workshop and was met by Deborah, a Claflin Professor of Criminal Justice. She promptly took me out for a shrimp n’ grits Charleston-style dinner (not to be missed), where we met another member of Claflin’s faculty, Heather. As I had never been introduced to the American south before, Deborah and Heather were all too happy to allow me to probe their minds for cultural insights into their world of Orangeburg and what it was like to live and work in South Carolina.
The next day at the university was engaging. Both the students and faculty at Claflin were consistently interactive and seemed hungry for knowledge. Professor Krekó and I received a warm welcome in addition to numerous questions on our personal research and the nature of politics and nationalism in general. Interestingly, although I was there primarily to introduce the undergraduates of Claflin - many of whom have never left the state of South Carolina - to the importance of a small country in East Central Europe, I was the one who found myself the student as Claflin opened my eyes to the way in which others experience the world around us.
As scholars at IU, it is of vital importance that we consistently remind ourselves of the diversity that exists here in the U.S. and keep ourselves apprised of all available perspectives. If we truly desire to be effective scholars, we must engage not only at conferences with our colleagues, but with faculty and students from all walks of life. Outreach programs not only benefit visited students in providing them unique information, they benefit the one holding the branch as well. It is all too easy to become lost in one’s limited world of favored scholars’ articles and books. Outreach provides us the opportunity to step out of our comfort zones and test our theories where they really matter. It helps us to become better thinkers and scientists.
I urge more faculty members and graduate students to take a part in programs like the one at Claflin, and I thank the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center for giving me this opportunity to teach, grow, and think