Monday, April 28, 2014

Siauliai, Lithuania-Social Welfare: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Phil Nordness, David Conway, and Kris Swain were able to travel to Siauliai University to participate in their research conference, Social Welfare:  An Interdisciplinary Approach.  Prior to the conference we were able to see Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithania which was founded in 1570.  An interesting thing that we learned about the universities in Lithuania is that you have to be invited to come to campus for a visit so there are only students and invited visitors on campus.  This is a very different concept than what we are used to in the United States with open campuses. We were very fortunate that Dr. Lina Miltenienė made the trip down to Vilnius to assist us on tour of the university and of the Trakai Castle.

After seeing the sights of Vilnius, we headed to Siauliai with Wednesday including a press conference at Siauliai University with the acting Rector, Donatas Jurgaitis and Dean Ingrida Baranauskiene and meetings with the faculty in the department.

David Conway and Donatas Jurgaitis
Research Conference Agenda, page 1
The second day was the international research conference with five countries represented at the conference:  Lithuania, England, Russia, Ukraine, and the United States.  The flags for the countries of the presenters were displayed at the presenters table.  Phil Nordness presented on his collaborative work with Dr. Renata Geleziniene on Strengths-Based Assessment and Kris Swain presented on the Teacher Training project in Nicaragua that she has been working on in collaboration with Julie Delkamiller, Beth Leader-Janssen and Mitzi Ritzman.
Phil Nordness presenting at the Siauliai Conference
The conference was well-run with 145 participants.  The translator was truly amazing as she translated for the Lithuanian, Russian, and English languages with no hesitations.  We all wore headsets so we could listen to each presenter.

After the conference, we were invited to a reception that celebrated 20 years for the department of Social Welfare and Disability Studies.  The Siauliai University Lithuanian Folk Singing group entertained us during the reception.

Lithuanian Folk Singers

Drs. Ingrida Baranauskiene, Daiva Mockeviciene, and Lina Miltenienė at the reception

Liuda Radzevičienė took time out of her busy schedule to take us to the Hill of Crosses that is just outside of Siauliai.

Renata took us to Palanga and Klaipeda so we could see some other areas of Lithuania including the beautiful Baltic Sea.  Much time was also spent discussing research projects as Renata has collected almost 600 responses for the project that she is collaborating on with Phil Nordness and another project was developed while we were at the conference.

Phil Nordness and Renatta Geleziniene

Our last stop was Riga, Latvia as that is the closest airport to Siauliai.  This gave us the last afternoon to explore old town Riga.  We were able to see buildings with dates such as 1646 on the front as the yellow building in the picture and the Freedom monument.  

Kris Swain at the Freedom Monument, Riga

The hospitality that we received by everyone on our trip was incredible.  They went out of their way to host lunches and dinners, answer questions and show us many parts of Lithuania.  We learned of many opportunities for research collaborations so keep tuned as projects continue to develop.