Six high-ranking members of Estonia’s Parliament will pay a special visit to the campus of West Virginia University on Tuesday, Feb. 28. From 6 to 8 p.m., the University community will pay tribute to Estonia’s Independence and a six-year record of exchanging faculty and students.

An Estonian Evening in Morgantown will include a WVU Reception from 6 to 8 p.m. in Elizabeth Moore Hall on WVU’s downtown campus. The event is open to the public. In honor of Estonia’s Independence, six members of the Estonian Parliament will participate in the celebration and attend meetings with WVU President Jim Clements and WVU Provost Michele Wheatly.

The reception will include refreshments and an Estonian presentation on the country’s recent history and economic gains since 1992, when Estonia declared its independence from the former Soviet Union, which had occupied the country after the end of WWII.

Dr. Robert Blobaum, who has collaborated with Estonia’s University of Tartu for more than four years, spoke admirably about the Estonian parliamentarians visit:

“This is truly a way that our community can recognize our important relationship with Estonia,” he said. “Estonia is now a strategic country in the Baltic region, a country that can boast of experts in economics and software creation, and the ingenuity that led to the creation of the Skype communications.”

The University of Tartu is the key higher education linkage in Estonia for West Virginia University. It is a partnership that was consolidated by Blobaum, the Eberly Family Professor of History in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and UT’s Viktor Trasberg. Trasberg is an associate professor at UT’s Faculty of Economics and Business, who is a visiting Fulbright Scholar researcher in fiscal policy and macroeconomics at WVU’s College of Business and Economics.

“Tartu’s research ranges from medicine and philosophy to genetics and computer science,” said Dr. Trasberg. “We also stress the importance of international cooperation and partnerships with reputable research universities like WVU all over the world.”

The delegation from Estonia consists of Mrs. Kadri Simson (Head of Delegation), a member of Estonia’s Centre Party; Mr. Jüri Ratas, 2nd Vice-President of Parliament, Centre Party; Mr. Indrek Saar, Social Democrat; Mr. Sven Sester, Chairman of Finance Committee, member of Pro Patria and Res Publica Union; Mr. Imre Sooäär, Estonian Reform Party, and Mr. Kalvi Kõva, Head of Rural Affairs Committee, a Social Democrat.
Another catalyst for the visit lies in WVU’s six-year study abroad record of sending undergraduate and graduate students to Estonia, and specifically the award of a U.S.-EU Atlantis grant. The Atlantis project (2009-2013) joins WVU, UT (Estonia), and Collegium Civitas (Warsaw, Poland) in a unique multidisciplinary dual master’s degree program in Eastern and Central European Area Studies.

The project was jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the European Commission. The primary emphasis of the program is on graduate student mobility.

Since 2009, the project has led to the exchange of 23 graduate students including 11 U.S. and 12 European students. Each student studies abroad for an academic year, completing graduate courses at each of the Atlantis institutions. The program has already graduated 10 students with dual master’s degrees, including five who received their European masters’ degrees from the University of Tartu. The Atlantis web portal has details at http://atlantisprogram.wvu.edu

“While the project has included faculty, the success of this academic program can be measured by the successes of its students,” said Dr. Blobaum, Atlantis program director. “These 23 Atlantis students have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments.”

The University of Tartu was founded in 1632 and has 18,000 students and 3,500 staff members. It is a leading European center of research, education, and training.

—WVU—

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CONTACT: Dr. Robert Blobaum 304-293-2421 (x5241); Robert. Blobaum@mail.wvu.edu