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UKIC / International Center / From Poland to Kentucky, UK Professor Inspires Global Mindset in Students

From Poland to Kentucky, UK Professor Inspires Global Mindset in Students

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | By Allison Cooper

The University of Kentucky is a campus that supports the cultivation of new ideas and world views. This is evident in UK’s diverse demographics, which include international faculty members who bring a variety of opportunities and diverse experiences to the lecture halls. 

Anne Brzyski, who grew up in Poland, has influenced her students to dive deeper into different cultures and viewpoints across the world. One particular student, Jacob Wachal, has had the opportunity to listen to many of Brzyski's lectures - allowing him to develop key critical skills in his field and attain a global mindset in the process. 

Brzyski, who joined the art department at UK in 2003, came to the United States when she was 14 years old. Growing up in Poland in the 1970s has influenced her background involving visual culture as this was nearing the end of communism. "It was a very interesting time," Brzyski said. 

“I think having faculty members with different backgrounds and viewpoints is really important to keep an open dialogue going between the faculty and students to prevent this kind of bubble we could possibly end up living in where it’s solely based on one point of view or American perspective. Having a broader world view is very helpful, especially in the day and age that we are living in,” Wachal said. “It just provides a whole new perspective for students that might not otherwise be exposed to it.”

Wachal, who plans to obtain his bachelor of fine arts in art studio this spring, has had three classes with Brzyski, including art and visual culture 1840-1914; propaganda from antique to present; and interdisciplinary approaches: dystopia.

In his propaganda class, Wachal said he learned the important life skill of critical analysis by studying news articles that Brzyski brought into class, and this helped him become more critical of the media he consumes. Brzyski has also brought in more classic examples, like a television show from her childhood that was intended to make Polish citizens more sympathetic to the Russian occupiers.

Brzyski has also shown classic propaganda films in class like one released by the Third Reich to promote Hitler as the “savior of the nation.” Wachal said Brzyski had the class analyze the techniques the film used to portray Hitler as this god-like figure. “It was really good to help me gain critical analysis skills,” Wachal said. 

“Seeing all these real-world examples pop up in the context of the class was really helpful, and it helped drive the idea home that we are living in history now and history is everywhere now,” Wachal said. “She really is the reason I decided to pursue art history as a minor.”

Wachal indicated Brzyski has a unique teaching style that aids students in learning. Wachal stated, “I don’t really find myself taking notes as much as just paying attention in class. It’s really engulfing material.” Brzyski also frequently posts material online for students to view to keep them engaged outside of the classroom. “She doesn’t put as much emphasis in memorizationshe really just wants us to apply these certain schools of thinking to our work in general,” Wachal said.

Brzyski said that she wishes to have her students to see multiple perspectives. 

"Beyond everything else I want them to understand that they don't know everything," Brzyski said. "If I can basically get a student who thinks they know what they're doing realize 'Oh my gosh I need to read more, I need to learn more, I need to basically go out there and educate myself,' that's when I feel like I've done my job."

Brzyski currently teaches 18th and 19th century European art courses, as well as courses in art criticism, visual culture and art theory, among others. Much of her work in academia focuses on the institutional framework in which modern art emerged in Central/Eastern Europe.

In addition to being an art faculty member, Brzyski is an art historian and the project director of the Polish National Archive and the designer and site manager of Historians of German and Central European Art and Architecture (HGCEA).