'The university is still treated as a space for exchanging ideas'. Interview with prof. Arkadiusz Modrzejewski

prof. Arkadiusz Modrzejewski

prof. Arkadiusz Modrzejewski 

From meetings with well-known politicians and diplomats to a conference on the role of an honorary consul to engaging practitioners to teach students, the Institute of Political Sciences UG conducts a variety of research and teaching activities. We asked its director, dr hab. Arkadiusz Modrzejewski, prof. UG, about the unit's plans and to-date cooperations.

Marcel Jakubowski: - Recently, the Institute of Political Sciences UG has been organising a number of meetings: whether with graduates of the faculty, e.g. Deputy Minister Marcin Horała and comedian Abelard Giza, or with renowned politicians and diplomats, e.g. Professor Adam Bodnar or the Ambassador of Iceland to Poland Hannes Heimisson. What value do these meetings bring to the education of students?

Prof. Arkadiusz Modrzejewski: - For many years, the Institute has hosted alums and politicians, but now we have intensified these activities. Such meetings enrich our educational offer and complement the knowledge that students acquire in classes. Political science has the advantage that people who have achieved success in the public sphere are usually very recognisable figures. So inviting them to our Institute, in addition to their merit, also brings great publicity to the unit. This is something unique to political science, because usually even world-class biologists or chemists are not as recognisable as politicians or diplomats. Recently, guests from East Tennessee State University in the USA came to our Institute and just happened to pass by the 2010-15 Representative of the Republic of Poland to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Dr Remigiusz Henczel, who teaches human rights and diplomatic workshops here. The American academics and students were impressed that we had a world-class diplomat teaching here.

- Practitioners in the political sphere often represent a particular political option and worldview. Do current political disputes interfere with knowledge transfer in the Institute's meetings?


- Our graduates who are now active politicians represent different political options. We invite everyone who has 'achieved something', so to speak. Party affiliation is irrelevant, although we do try to keep things in proportion so that we don't just meet people from a single option. At the same time, our guests do not come to the Institute to convince students of their views. The discussion is substantive and in no way resembles pushy propaganda. The university is still treated as a space for exchanging ideas. The conversation often revolves around the career of the guest in question and how studying Political Science has helped them on this path. No matter what party they are from, we treat them the same - as our graduates.

Konferencja ”Instytucja Konsula Honorowego - teoria i praktyka”, fot. Marcel Jakubowski

Conference 'The institution of the Honorary Consul - theory and practice', photo: Marcel Jakubowski

- You have recently organised a conference for diplomats on the role of the honorary consul in international relations. What are your impressions of the event? Is the Institute planning to organise similar conferences?

- This conference, co-organised by the Association of Honorary Consuls in the Republic of Poland, will be a regular event. The event was primarily educational. Students were very happy to listen to practising diplomats. Let's remember that not all our graduates will take up top diplomatic posts. Of course, I will be delighted to see future ambassadors leave our thresholds. However, some students will work in consular offices or so-called 'para diplomacy', which is what cities or honorary consuls do, for example. Our students should have an understanding of what this role entails. We have recently signed a cooperation agreement with the President of the SKH Honorary Consul of Bulgaria, Jan Stravinsky, which will result in, among other things, the organisation of scientific seminars, the preparation and implementation of research projects, or support for teaching on diplomacy.

- Apart from the Association of Honorary Consuls already mentioned, what other collaborations does the Institute of Political Sciences have with external institutions and organisations?

- We have signed an agreement with the Morena Association, with which we cooperate on various initiatives. Our lecturers will, for example, give open lectures as part of this cooperation. We have been conducting joint activities with the Gdańsk Centre for International Debate for many years. Establishing such relations brings tangible benefits, the best example of which is the conference 'The Institution of the Honorary Consul', which was reported, among others, in the Bulgarian media due to the presence of the Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria, Margarita Ganeva. We also conduct international cooperation within the framework of the 'Visiting Professors' programme. Recently, prof. Mark Misfud from the University of Malta gave a lecture for diplomacy students, and in October, prof. Torbjørn L. Knutsen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology will come to us to give his classes included in the study hours grid.

- What about cooperation within the university?

- We have particularly good relations with the Department of Socio-Economic Geography, the Department of Spatial Management, the Institute of Psychology, and the Institute of Media, Journalism and Social Communication. This cooperation translates into scientific and research activities and has an educational and organisational dimension. Together with colleagues from the Department of Socio-Economic Geography, we recently prepared a scientific seminar on the perception of the war in Ukraine by countries of the so-called Global South.

- How are you developing the Institute's scientific activities?

- It came as a shock to us when the Ministry of Education and Science gave us a B category, which was, however, changed to a B+ after an appeal. It was such a cold shower for us. Since then, I have seen much progress at our Institute. Our researchers are publishing more frequently in high-scoring journals. We are also planning to apply for more research grants. We are waiting for the results for now, but we hope these efforts will translate into accepting our applications. Ultimately, we would like the research funded by these grants to translate into publications in high-scoring journals.

- What kind of graduate does the Institute of Political Sciences want to release into the world?

- Our graduates should have excellent academic knowledge, but should also be able to use it in their professions. This is why we invite practitioners to co-create courses at the Institute of Political Sciences, such as the aforementioned dr Remigiusz Henczel, the Polish Ambassador to Romania in 1993-1999 Bogumił Luft, or the current Mayor of the City of Gdańsk Aleksandra Dulkiewicz. We have different specialisations, we train diplomats, politicians, local government employees, or people who will work in the national security sectors. We involve practitioners in each of these curricula. To 'shape' such a graduate, it takes not only the involvement of academics from within the Institute but also outsiders, namely visiting professors and practitioners who have been successful in their careers, including our graduates.  There also needs to be a desire for knowledge in students, otherwise, all our efforts are meaningless. One of our graduates, dr Martyna Bildziukiewicz, is already leading the activities of East StratCom, an EU unit to counter Russian disinformation. I dream that the Institute of Political Sciences at the University of Gdańsk will be a place for training human resources for state bodies, local governments, and diplomatic and consular services of Poland and the European Union.

Marcel Jakubowski