Chasing the “Slovenian dream:” How one professor found himself teaching in Slovenia

slovenia James Colasurdo, Staff Writer

 

For the spring of 2019, Saint Martin University’s own Criminal Justice professor Robert Hauhart is teaching in Slovenia, a small European country of two million people, by way of his Fulbright scholarship.

For two years, Hauhart applied to a popular Fulbright program in Norway, but in both years, he was named an alternate. In 2017, Hauhart received an email from a scholar in Slovenia who was very interested in his work on the American Dream. The scholar referenced both Hauhart’s 2016 book “Seeking the American Dream: A Sociological Inquiry,” and a paper Hauhart published for the American Sociologist. Eventually, one thing led to another, and the Fulbright Award was discussed. Hauhart applied for a teaching/research affiliation at the Postgraduate School for the Research Centre for the Slovenian Institute of Sciences and Arts in the capital, Ljubljana, a city of 150,000 people, in the center of the country.

Hauhart’s application was accepted and called for a 60 percent teaching and 40 percent research award. For the teaching part, Hauhart submitted a syllabus based on the class he taught with Professor Jeff Birkenstein, titled “Chasing the American Dream.”

“Chasing the American Dream” is different from a normal class, not only because of the content, but because “We try to teach it as an upper-division seminar, even though it’s a 200 level class, and there’s usually 30 to 35 students. We try to involve the students as much as we can, we have students read paragraphs from our selections.” The two professors show three to four films, usually documentaries all about the American Dream, and pull from other pieces of interdisciplinary writing. He goes on to say that the success of the class hinges a lot on how engaged the class is. Though sometimes people just do not engage which forces the professors to resort to lectures, when students do engage, the results can be great.

Hauhart’s class is literally and figuratively foreign to those in Slovenia, as education is much different in Slovenia than in the United States. For instance, Hauhart learned that “European students do not interact with their professors. That is, what students expect is for you to come and deliver a lecture. And yes, students occasionally ask clarifying questions, but you usually get none or maybe one, but there’s no interchange, debate, and interaction between professors and students.” The same situation applies to Slovenia. Another fundamental difference is that Slovenians are very dependent on examinations and are not used to writing papers during the term of the semester. Slovenians generally have one big examination which they get two weeks to manage.

The research component of Hauhart’s award continues a version of a research study that Hauhart has been conducting with Saint Martin’s students interviewing people all over the South Sound region over the last two years. The interviews asked a series of questions, which map out respondents’ life courses or life trajectories. “There are all these choice points for people and it goes on,” Hauhart says.

“So you graduate from college? Well, you have a new choice point: Do you go to law school or not? Do you get a job? And so, the intention of the interviews is to map that out and look at the similarities and differences, and of course there might be substantial similarities and differences in the answers between the United States and Slovenia, a very small nation of two million people in the Balkans in Europe,” Hauhart explains.

Essentially, Hauhart will have Slovenian students ask the same questions to respondents as Saint Martin’s students, but Hauhart mentions that he does not know nearly enough about the country to know, for instance, what their major industries or occupations are. Therefore, he may make some adjustments to the research by asking more targeted questions about Slovenia. On returning to the United States, Hauhart aims to publish his research findings in a book.

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