UW PSEC: Five Years of History in the Making

by Kat Dziwirek

It is truly amazing to behold creation, to see something arise out of nothing thanks to the good will and generosity of a community. It is hard to believe that five years ago the UW Polish Studies Endowment Committee (UW PSEC) did not exist and it is amazing to contemplate how much we have accomplished since 2002.
April 2002 saw our first outreach event at the University of Washington: Tom Podl’s presentation on “Colors of Identity: Discovering Polish Heritage through Art”. The same year we received two sizable grants from Simpson Center for the Humanities and from Arts and Sciences Exchange Program to organize, during the next two academic years, an outreach speaker series entitled “50 Years of Polish at the UW: Celebrating Polish-American Heritage”. The series was also supported by smaller grants from the Polish Home Association, Polish Home Ladies’ Auxiliary, University of Washington Slavic, History and Jewish Studies Departments, the REECAS Program, and the Seattle Public Library. In 2004 a very generous gift from Izabella and Andrzej Turski enabled us to continue the series, now known as Distinguished Speakers Series, for the next three following years and beyond: Leszek Balcerowicz is scheduled to inaugurate the 2007/08 Series with a lecture next October. One look at the impressive list of events organized by the UW PSEC gives an appreciation of our organization’s vitality and achievements over these past five years (see below).

In addition to the Speakers’ Series, we have held three UW Polish Studies Auctions, which raised over $120,000. In June 2005, we created the UW Polish Studies Endowment Fund with an initial deposit of $35,000 which this year reached $120,000. We developed a unique University of Washington Fulbright Lectureship Grant, which combines funds from the US-Polish Fulbright Commission, the UW’s Ellison Center, and UW PSEC to bring a lecturer in Polish Studies to the university for three years, beginning in 2006/2007. We also established UW Polish Studies Scholarship Fund, which in 2007/08 will be awarded to UW students traveling to Poland to pursue their studies.
The Polish Studies Endowment Fund with $120,000, twenty three Distinguished Polish Speakers’ Series events, the Fulbright Lectureship, the Scholarship Fund: none of these existed 5 years ago. And neither did UW PSEC itself, a grass roots organization of volunteers, whose generosity and dedication to the twin goals of fundraising for an Endowed Chair of Polish studies and educating the Seattle community about Poland are truly awe-inspiring.