The International Summer University in Prishtina in Kosovo has selected Max Pitt, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, to teach as a Fulbright Specialist. For the next five years, Pitt will be listed as a Specialist of the Fulbright Program, which connects U.S. academics and professionals with counterparts at overseas universities or institutions. The program awards grants to engage in short-term collaborative projects at higher education institutions in over 100 countries worldwide.
During the summer of 2013, Pitt taught a two-week course called “Entrepreneurship and Business Plan Preparation in the 21st Century” at the University of Prishtina. For Pitt, it was not only an opportunity to explore the entrepreneurial interests of Prishtina’s students, but also to further develop the relationship that Graceland—and the state of Iowa as a whole—has cultivated with Kosovo. One of the highlights of Pitt’s experience, both during the summer and in previous trips to Prishtina, was interacting with Graceland alumni who have returned to Kosovo to make a difference in their native country. Several Graceland graduates have risen to prominent positions in Kosovo’s government, including Zana Zeqiri-Rudi ’06, a Harvard graduate and senior advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Dhurata Hoxha ’04, a Georgetown graduate and chief of staff to the Prime Minister. (Current Graceland students will have the opportunity to take courses with Dhurata and her husband, Visar Hoxha, Chairman of the Board of the European School of Law and Governance, when they return to Lamoni as guest lecturers on European Business and Governance during 2014 Winter Term).
Getting into Pitt’s Summer University course was competitive, with only forty-two out of a hundred students gaining admission into the class. Students spent the duration of the two weeks developing business plans and presenting them. With Pleurat Halili ’04 of Novus Consulting, a professional consulting and IT services firm, and representatives from the U.S. Embassy sitting in on the presentations, the students “had a helpful professional audience for their business plans—and the opportunity to make connections with people who could help them advance those plans,” said Pitt.
For Pitt, the experience of teaching in Kosovo “was moving at different levels,” the first level being interpersonal. During Pitt’s time in Prishtina, a Graceland graduate’s parents graciously hosted him and his wife, Cindy. Pitt and his wife experienced much warmth from their extended Graceland family and were treated to home-cooked meals of traditional food each day of their stay. “We weren’t complete strangers; we were Graceland friends,” said Pitt, “but this family opened up their home to me and offered an extraordinary level of hospitality.”
Moving on another level was “seeing the impact that Graceland graduates have around the globe,” said Pitt. “It’s a very rewarding experience to see them get their feet on the ground, gain confidence, master thinking and writing, and become successful and sought out for further developing their country.” These Kosovar Graceland alumni, said Pitt, “are committed to the success of Kosovo and are working hard to make it recognized by neighbors in the region and around the globe.”
The connection between Kosovo and the state of Iowa is significant, with Governor Terry Branstad announcing on June 13, 2013 that Kosovo and Iowa had entered into sister statehood. The Iowa-Kosovo partnership began informally in 2003, when more than 700 Iowa National Guard soldiers started serving in Kosovo on peacekeeping missions. The informal Iowa-Kosovo partnership developed into the formal State Partnership Program (SPP) in March 2011.