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CCU Atheneum: Kay Keels
Kay Keels

Wall faculty members to teach in Lithuania

by Mona Prufer
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While most faculty were taking a break from the demands of academe over the holidays, Kay Keels and John Mortimer were busy brushing up on their Lithuanian and buying thermal underwear.

Lithuania is, after all, cold in March. Located just north of Russia, the average monthly temperature is 34.5.

Keels, associate professor of strategic management, and Mortimer, associate professor of accounting, will be the first American professors in a new foreign exchange program for faculty offered through the International Business School at Vilnius University (IBS-VU) in the capital city.

In March, over Spring Break, they will travel to Vilnius to teach a course to international students, with either a return visit in May or follow-up through distance learning. Plans are still developing. Keels, who joined the CCU faculty in 2005, will be teaching a management and organization graduate level course. “I don’t know if I fit the mold of traditional lecturer,” she says as she has only taught the subject on the undergraduate level.

Mortimer, who joined the faculty in 2002, will teach national governmental budgetary processes. It’s not a class he’s taught before, but he’s confident that his past military experience developing and executing multibillion dollar budgets for the Iraqi government will serve him well in a classroom environment. 

Though the students will be English-speaking, both professors feel some anxiety about the Lithuanian language, which neither knows too well (or at all).

“My first year of teaching here, I had a student from Lithuania, and I greeted her in Lithuanian,” recalls Keels. “She was so surprised! Of course, it was one of my three words I knew in the language.”

Her words are labas rytas (good morning), labas vakaras (good evening) and I sveikata! (cheers!). She intends to use them all. Mortimer also knows the greetings, but plans to rely on a crash language course and translation sites on the Internet.

Keels plans to visit a good friend and former colleague from Vilnius while she is there. She also hopes for spare time to visit the famous Hill of Crosses, the Lithuanian national pilgrimage site that has thousands of crosses representing Christian devotion massed together on a small hill.

“It’s an incredible site; it’s just hard to describe,” says Keels, who first visited Lithuania about seven years ago. “The country is so beautiful. It has been interesting to see the change in building since Lithuania came out from under the Soviet Union oppression [in 1990].”

The IBS-VU is a member of the Conosortium of International Double Degrees (CIDD), which CCU joined in 2004 and which is coordinated by Darla Domke-Damonte. Vilnius University was founded in 1579, and the International Business School was founded in 1989 as Lithuania was working toward its independence. The school began offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1996. It is accredited by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania and a member of the European Foundation for Management Education.

Domke-Damonte said CCU and IBS-VU had been having discussions for years, but Henry Lowenstein, former dean of the Wall College of Business Administration, had family connections in Lithuania for generations back. As a result of his connections and a meeting with the IBS-VU officials in Helsinki, Finland, last June that Lowenstein and Domke-Damonte both attended, the exchange program finally became a reality.

“We are also exploring the feasibility of double degree programs in business with this institution,” says Domke-Damonte.

“I look forward to enhancing relationships between our two schools,” says Mortimer, who plans to “slip over into Russia” during his Lithuanian stay. “From all my travels, I’ve learned that we’re all just trying to get along in this world.”

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