By Jordan Unger
Everyone spends their school breaks differently — Youngstown State University professor Paul Sracic spends his giving lectures to college students in foreign countries.
Paul Sracic, a political science professor at YSU, will speak to students about the U.S. presidential election at universities in Malta and Bulgaria beginning Oct. 17. He said the lectures focus on the electoral process and the candidates’ positions on issues.
The lectures are funded and organized by the U.S. State Department with whom Sracic has been working since 2009. He said the State Department first reached out to him while he was teaching in Tokyo.
“I got good reviews from the lectures I did, so it led to other lectures after that,” Sracic said.
He has given around 30 lectures to students at more than a dozen universities since then including schools in Beijing and Brussels.
Most recently, Sracic went to universities and embassies in Lithuania and Latvia in March. He said everyone around the world knows about Ohio, so being a professor at YSU drives these lectures.
“That’s, in a way, what makes [YSU] an incredible destination for students overseas who want to study U.S. politics,” Sracic said. “There’s no better place to do it than at Youngstown State and [in Ohio], where we get all these visits … from political candidates.”
Aside from university lectures, Sracic will discuss constitutional interpretation with 100 lawyers and judges in Bulgaria. Sracic was also invited to give lectures on the election to political parties in Malta.
While he has experience teaching, it is a different experience to speak to a foreign audience, Sracic said. This is particularly true when English is not the audience’s native language.
“I call it ‘speaking with the brakes on,’” Sracic said. “Instead of my normal fast pace, I would speak very slowly and clearly, pronouncing every word, because the translators need to be able to hear and get it across to your audience.”
Sracic said the audiences have been engaged and full of questions.
“Even though we don’t tend to pay a lot of attention to their countries and the rest of the world, they pay attention to us,” Sracic said. “They’re consumers of U.S. political news. It’s important to them to know what’s going to happen, because it’s going to affect their countries.”
Sracic said he receives messages daily from professors and students at schools he’s visited.
“They have a question about what’s going on,” Sracic said. “It really keeps our international ties.”
Greta Frost, a political science student at YSU, said it is great to be taught by a professor with personal experience in international affairs.
“He’s promoting YSU in a positive way around the world,” Frost said.
Sracic is interviewed by the press in most of the countries he visits. He will be featured on Japan’s largest news station, NHK World, in November for a televised pre-election special.
“YSU has been all over the world on TV,” Sracic said. “I don’t know if [YSU students] always realize it.”
He wants students to know that YSU is not just a local university, which he said is a common misconception.
“It’s important for students here to realize that YSU has an international footprint,” Sracic said.
Jacob Schriner-Briggs, a political science student at YSU, said these international ties are important in today’s world.
“With the advance in communication technologies and economic interdependence between nations, globalization is an irreversible trend,” Schriner-Briggs said. “The more people that understand the cultures and governments of other nations, the better.”