Message from the Exec. Director M. Paula Survilla

As Executive Director of the Center for Belarusian Studies, it is my pleasure to welcome you the CBS website. Since our creation in 2007, the Center has endeavored to explore the ways in which we can be effective and proactive contributors to positive societal change in Belarus.

The Center was established recognizing that the key to affecting positive societal change lies in the access to higher education and to the critical thinking and global perspectives that such an education should provide. The power of education of this kind is not only linked to the development of a healthy civil society, but to the empowerment of a population and its ability to shape it’s own democracy and place in a global context.

The initiatives described throughout this site have grown out of this philosophy. These are varied and address the many ways in which higher education can provide proactive approaches to knowledge as the first link to application and action. Education may not always provide explosive moments, but it inspires and it offers the deliberate and steady pace towards substantive change.

Our Visiting Scholars Program has been a very successful initiative. In bringing Belarusian scholars to the Center, we provide them the opportunity to pursue research, and to gain teaching experience through the preparation and delivery of courses on Belarus. Our scholars have also done much to contribute to the continuing development of the Center’s archive collection as well as other initiatives. The CBS, together with Southwestern College, has also initiated a Masters in Leadership Program in Belarusian Studies designed for students from Belarus. The inaugural class is expected to complete degree requirements this summer. This unique course of study provides modeling of critical thought and explores the role of social responsibility and ethics within the context of a student’s professional interests.

One stipulation of both of these programs is that scholars and students return to Belarus. This aspect, in addition to the Belarusian-specific nature of our programming, is what differentiates the Center from the work of other institutes. If our intention is to inspire and equip those we engage in our programming, we do so in order to contribute to the development of civil society in Belarus. Admittedly, this process can move slowly, but one cannot underestimate the power of the well equipped, educated, and passionate individual.

Finally, I would like to share a central aspect of our philosophy, one that reflects the accumulated years of experience of our executive directors as well as members of our Board. We acknowledge the many attempts to contribute to positive change in Belarus since the declaration of sovereignty in 1991. These efforts, spanning the last two decades, have not generated much change. This is all but too clear in the events overshadowing Belarusians since the December 2010 presidential elections. Even prior to these devastating developments, the Center has lobbied for the recognition of the value of long-term commitments and strategies rather than short-term solutions. We continue to communicate the importance of long-term strategies as fundamental to enabling change through our other efforts, including Symposia, the preparation and delivery of position papers, communication with policy makers, and through the design and implementation of all of our initiatives. These efforts are described throughout this site.

I invite you to explore our website and thank you for visiting the Center in its virtual space. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.