“Year of Romania” Day kick-off events draw crowds

An afternoon lecture by former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Jim Rosapepe on the Oct. 13 “Year…

Georgia (Oct 18, 2010)

An afternoon lecture by former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Jim Rosapepe on the Oct. 13 “Year of Romania” Day drew a standing-room-only audience to the 300-seat auditorium in the Social Sciences building.

Students lined the aisles, took plenty of notes and stayed put for a robust Q&A with Rosapepe, who was joined by his wife, journalist Sheilah Kast, with whom he co-authored “Dracula is Dead: How Romanians Survived Communism, Ended it and Emerged Since 1989 as the New Italy.” 
 
An hour later, another full-house of KSU students and staff joined more than 100 members of metro-Atlanta’s Romanian community in the student center’s University Rooms to celebrate the country’s culture and its long-term relationship with the U.S. The festivities included greetings from KSU and Romanian officials, regional folk dances and songs, a folk tale, a gymnastics demonstration and a tasting of Romanian cuisine.
 
“We’re so pleased that we are celebrating the Year of Romania -- this very interesting country and its wonderful culture and people,” said President Daniel S. Papp, who revealed a possible Romanian connection in his own family tree. “The ‘Year of’ program tremendously enriches our campus and our students … and is invaluable to KSU as we move forward with our commitment to global learning.”
 
During the lecture, Rosapepe, who served as ambassador from 1990 to 2001, underscored the significance of Romania’s dramatic transition since 1989 from a communist country into a vibrant democracy and a member of NATO and the European Union. He described Romania as a warm, hospitable country whose people highly value education, skill, work ethic, family and religious faith.
 
“People often ask ‘Is Romania still communist?’” Rosapepe said. “The best answer I can give is a reminder that just eight years after the transition, Romanians were complaining: They complained that the press writes whatever it wants and that politicians only worried about the next election. That illustrates that in a very short time, the country developed a system with many of the flaws and strengths of the U.S., one in which no one is censoring the press and where there is alwaysa next election.” 
 
The country’s cultural life dominated “Year of Romania” Day festivities, following official greetings from Papp, Barry Morris, executive director of the Institute for Global Initiatives at KSU, and Dan Paracka, director of international programs and annual country study coordinator.
 
Representing Romania, Marcel Duhaneanu, rector of ASEBUSS, a Bucharest-based business institute that has offered an executive MBA program in partnership with KSU’s Coles College of Business since 2003, praised the university’s commitment to helping educate global managers who are instrumental in Romania’s shift to a free market economy. 
 
“We’ve developed a strong partnership with Coles that has produced more than 530 alumni,” Duhaneanu said. “Our relationship has been based on trust, which is strengthened by the ‘Year of Romania.’”
 
ASEBUSS is helping KSU coordinate a “Doing Business in Romania” conference in spring 2011.
 
Darius Gazinschi, the honorary Consul of Romania for Atlanta, said he proudly wears his hyphenated Romanian-American label. Born in Romania, he came to the U.S. 15 years ago. 
 
“This is the era of KSU as it celebrates the  ‘Year of Romania,’” Gazinschi said. “This celebration is about all of us. KSU is very well known in Romania because of its long engagement with ASEBUSS. They know a lot about us. This is an opportunity for us to learn more about them.”
 
Romania’s vast diversity and aspects of its national identity were depicted during the two-hour culture fest, which included colorful regional costumes displayed as a backdrop for the event’s stage, dances representing the Banat, Salaj and Moldova regions and the gypsy culture and authentic cuisine prepared by the local Astoria Romanian Restaurant. Ensemble Transylvania, a professional dance troupe, and three ensembles from Saint Constantine and Elena Orthodox Romania Church in Atlanta performed, as did members of the KSU Tellers, who presented a classic Romanian folk tale, and local folk singer Mariana Balan who sang folk music from different regions. 
 
The celebration also recognized Romania’s dominance in competitive gymnastics, with an appearance by Olympic champion Daniela Silivas and a floor exercise routine by a local high school gymnastics state champion. 
 
Silivas, the only gymnast to medal in every event during the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, now coaches the sport in metro Atlanta. She explained why Romania continues to produce some of the world’s best gymnasts: “There’s no such thing as recreational gymnastics in Romania; only a select few can do it. At age 6, I started training four hours a day to try to make the national team. Here in the U.S., anyone can take gymnastics and enjoy the sport.”
 
Although many KSU students attending “Year of Romania” events do so as an assignment or to gain extra credit for classes, some look forward to the culturally enriching activities during the annual country study.
 
“I thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about the background of what we touch on in class,” said sophomore Mallory Cooper, whose world literature class is studying works whose central theme is the effects of totalitarianism. “I attended a few “Year of” events last year and really enjoyed them. Understanding cultures and traditions other than your own really helps you become a well-rounded person.”
 
For Romanian-born Carmen Van Avery, who hopes to graduate from the Coles College Executive MBA program in 2112, the “Year of Romania” Day was especially rewarding. She lived through the country’s transition from communism to  democracy.
 
“I’m very confident that Romania has changed,” she said. “I’m so happy that we are coming together as two different cultures to learn about each other. It makes me very proud.”

-- Sabbaye McGriff


 

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