The guests were welcomed by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation’s President Jerzy Koźmiński, who recalled the objectives of the Foundation and the Kirkland Program and pointed out to the fact that it was the first PAFF program initiated to share Polish experiences of transformation. For 15 years it has also served establishing and strengthening ties between Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe and developing cooperation in the region.
Next, Minister Olgierd Dziekoński gave a lecture on history and experiences gained from the local government reform in Poland as well as challenges which local governments face in Poland now. “The rebirth of local governments is one of the biggest successes of the Polish transformation. It has released the civil energy of Poles and allowed local communities to participate and co-decide on public affairs. There would be no modern, independent Poland were it not for the development of local governance,” Minister Dziekoński said.
Diplomas for 44 graduates of the 15th edition of the Kirkland Program were presented by Minister Jacek Michałowski, Minister Olgierd Dziekoński, Vice-President of the Education for Democracy Foundation Martyna Bogaczyk and PAFF President Jerzy Koźmiński. Twenty participants received diplomas with honors.
The most important facts related to the completed edition of the Program were presented by Urszula Sobiecka, the Lane Kirkland Program Officer at the Education for Democracy Foundation. The biggest group of participants (31 people) came to Poland as the scholarship holders from Ukraine; groups that came from Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Russia had 3 people each; 2 people came from Moldova, 1 person from Armenia and 1 from Georgia.
The graduates of the 2014/2015 edition of the Kirkland Program came from various professional groups – there were university lecturers, lawyers, civil servants, independent experts, journalists and NGO leaders. The most popular fields of study were economics, management and law, but many program participants selected also social sciences, journalism, public administration, political sciences and international relations. Urszula Sobiecka thanked the regional coordinators, tutors and social and cultural animators involved in the program. Moreover she informed about the results of recruitment for the next academic year. In 2015/16, the Kirkland Program will have 45 participants from eight countries.
Apart from the this-year graduates, also the Program regional coordinators from five university cities of Poland, tutors, vice rector for research and international cooperation of Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin Ryszard Dębicki, and other representatives of universities where the scholarship holders studied, social and cultural animators, representatives of Armenian, Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian diplomatic missions, the program alumni and representatives of NGOs cooperating with the program were present at the ceremonious closing meeting.
The objective of the Lane Kirkland Scholarship Program, launched in 2000 by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, is to share Polish experiences of political transformation with representatives of East European, Caucasus and Central Asia countries by two-semester post-graduate courses offered by universities in five Polish cities. The scholarship holders study at individual courses the selected aspects of economics and management, public administration and business, law, social or political sciences. The program includes also introductory meeting where they can get some knowledge about Poland, integrational and training meetings on social and civic issues as well as internships at state and private institutions. After their stay in Poland, the former scholarship holders participate in various initiatives allowing them to stay in contact with their program colleagues and with Poland, for example alumni reunions, conferences etc. They also get the program newsletter. In the period 2000-2015 (including 2014/2015) the Kirkland Program was completed by 654 scholarship holders, mainly from Ukraine, Georgia and Russia. Between 2001 and 2013 the program was managed by the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission. Since 2013, the program is managed by the Education for Democracy Foundation.