Access to Global Discourse, Critical Thinking, and Belarusian Civil Society
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The Center for Belarusian Studies Translation Initiative:
Access to Global Discourse, Critical Thinking, and Belarusian Civil Society

In October of 2009, the Center for Belarusian Studies brought together specialists in higher education from Belarus and North America in order to encourage exchange about conditions in higher education in Belarus, including the repercussions of censorship and state control on the building of a healthy civil society. One of the key strategies identified at this event focused on the absence of critical, globally derived/engaged discourse in the Belarusian language for use at the university level. The absence of such discourse, it was and is argued, severely affects the development of critical thinking and the recognition of personal investment in societal change.

The connections between policy-making, social change, and higher education are at the core of the Center for Belarusian Studies’ current work. Since 2009, the Center for Belarusian Studies has developed a long-term project stressing the development of critical thinking through Belarusian-language translations of discourse in the humanities. In addition to designing and presenting a model for a translation initiative, the Center is overseeing collaborative planning with the European Humanities University, and the Belarusian Collegium through ongoing dialogues initiated in the summer of 2010. It is the curricular needs of these institutions that will provide an initial repertoire of sources for translation and subsequent classroom use. In the last few months, the CBS has presented this initiative to State Department and EU representatives in Washington during a follow-up Symposium held on October 25th, 2011.

The Washington Symposium, Higher Education and Civil Society in Belarus, brought together participants from the Center’s 2009 Symposium, as well as representatives from think tanks, the State Department, and diplomatic circles, among them, his Excellency, Zygimantas Pavilionis (Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States, Matthew Kwasiborski (European Institutes Director, The Fund for American Studies), Alla Orsa Romano (Director of the Belarusian Cultural and Educational Foundation), Anatoly Mikhailov and Aleksandr Kalbaska (European Humanities University), Ales Ancipeinka (Belarusian Collegium), and Lawrence Silverman (Director for Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus Affairs for the State Department). A key aspect of this participation was to share reports on the activities of these agencies resulting from the initiatives described in the Strategic Action Plan for Higher Education Reform in Belarus presented by the Center of Belarusian studies as a result of the 2009 symposium. Dr. Andrew Sheppard (CBS) reported on the Center’s Masters Program and on the Summer Institute in Belarusian Studies held in the Bielastok region. Ambassador David Swartz moderated the dialogues on behalf of the Center.

We continue to work towards the development and support of these initiatives. To read about our other efforts please visit our web-site

M. Paula Survilla is Executive Director of the Center of Belarusian Studies, Professor of Music and Slife Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Wartburg College, Waverly, IA.

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 22, No. 4
Copyright 2010 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.
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