Jekatyerina Dunajeva

What is your area of research? How long have you been working in this field? How long have you been lecturing at PPCU?
Broadly, my areas of research are historical and contemporary state- and nation-building processes. I am particularly interested in how "Others" are constructed, and hence in the past conducted extensive research on Roma and state education policies. Geographically, I am interested in the Anglo-Saxon world, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. Currently, I am involved in several research projects: politics of garbage and environmental justice for Roma; patriotic education in the Soviet Union and Russia; Soviet nationality policies and contemporary minority politics in Russia.
I have taught at PPCU since 2017(with short maternity leave breaks) and very much enjoy my subjects and diverse classrooms.

When you were a university student yourself, did you ever study abroad? If you did, what courses did you take?
I have completed all my university education in the United States – I received my BA from Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota and both my MA and PhD from the University of Oregon. As an undergraduate student, having had many interests, I majored in Political Science and minored in Economics, French, and Soviet and Eurasian Studies. In graduate school, my primary area was Comparative Politics, and my secondary area was International Relations. I remain a supporter of study abroad programs and encourage students to study in foreign universities if they have a chance.

How did you choose the country and the university, and how much information did you have about the courses and the lecturers before your visit?
I very much appreciated and continue to appreciate the North American higher education model: many students do not yet know at 18 what they want to study or what profession to choose. I struggled making up my mind while living in Hungary, and realized each time I wanted to switch majors it required a complicated re-application process... I moved to the United States, was immediately accepted to college and while taking general education courses could decide on which subjects I liked the most. I also knew there were merit-based and need-based scholarships, so I fortunately never had to take any students loans.

Have you got any recent teaching experience at foreign universities and with the students of these universities?
As a graduate student in the United States I taught courses as a teaching assistant (TA) and as an (independent) instructor as well. I am also an active member of the international scholarly community and exchange teaching experience with colleagues around the world.

Your lectures here, at PPCU, are very popular with foreign students. To what reasons do you attribute this?
My students know I am always happy to help in any way: if they need additional help with course materials, readings, writing their paper, or if they need a recommendation letter applying for a scholarship or internship. I firmly believe in interactive and yet challenging classroom environment: I appreciate when students express their thoughts, formulate new ideas, and think critically. One of my goals as an educator is to assure that classes are inspiring and stimulating. I also strive to teach about the most relevant and up-to-date topics, hoping that students feel more empowered and knowledgeable by the end of the semester.

How easy is it to find the way to your guest students, to reach them and to get on with them?
I always encourage everyone to come and talk to me (or send me an email) if there are any questions or concerns, especially stemming from cultural differences. I strongly believe that effective communication is the key to a positive class environment.

Are you able to make time for your foreign students out of the tight timeframes of the lectures?
Sure, we all hold office hours and students are welcome to stop by with any questions. I also try to make time for those who are unable to come during office hours and usually respond to my emails within a day.

Can you contribute to broadening your foreign students' horizon about Hungary and Hungarian culture?
My courses in English always have a good mix of international and domestic students, hence providing a fertile ground for exchange of ideas and opinions. I also include relevant topics about Hungarian politics, culture and society that enable a fruitful class discussion and teach students to think critically. For example, in my Postcolonialism and World Order course, we always spend one or two weeks reading and analyzing how postocolonial theories apply to the context of Eastern Europe and Hungary in particular. In my Environmental Politics class we read about international environmental issues as well as Hungarian ones.

What do you like about teaching foreign students?
I appreciate diverse classrooms, different cultures, experiences, and backgrounds, as they all help us understand the different viewpoints about political, economic and cultural issues. These diverse perspectives are a constant reminder not to take anything for granted, not to assume that there is a definite right or wrong (good or bad), and that our opinions are often contextualized in a set of cultural particularities. I encourage class discussions and provide plenty of opportunities for students to express their own opinions about various matters.

Last but not least, when you have spare time, how do you usually spend it?
I do my best to spend my working hours – teaching, researching, and consulting – as productively as possible, so I can spend the rest of my time with my two sons, Verny and Sasha, and my husband, Jay. We are a multicultural and multilingual family, and we try to raise open-minded and inclusive children.

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