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Polish Visitor Brings Multicultural Experience to Classroom
If Jolanta Stryjczak '00 had been slightly more punctual when applying to Kozminski University, she would have never missed the deadline and Elms College would never have known her. Bill Donovan, associate professor of accounting, would not have a friendly visitor from Poland meeting up with him each time she was in the United States. Scott Hartblay, associate professor of social work, would not have an old friend to catch up with while visiting his family in Poland. Janice Fedor, adjunct professor in marketing and business management, would not have an alumna and marketing professional who worked for some of the largest companies in Europe speaking in her international marketing class at the end of the spring semester.
After missing the aforementioned deadline, Jolanta enrolled at another college with plans to transfer to Kozminski after a year. During that year, however, she discovered a foreign exchange program with a small school in Western Massachusetts that caught her attention. "It was meant to be that I was late," Jolanta proclaimed.
The following year she flew to the United States and began taking courses at Elms College through a foreign exchange program with four other students. Jolanta only planned on staying for one semester, but found that she really enjoyed her time at the Elms. "Every year I was more happy to be here. I had a great experience and met wonderful people," she said.
After one year in the program, she decided to stay an extra year and graduate from Elms. It was quite a challenge, but Jolanta had help along the way. Walter Wrzesien, former director of the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College, set Jolanta up with a scholarship that paid for one year's tuition. Next, Jolanta asked her friend Shirley O'Neil, who worked in the mailroom, if she knew of an off-campus place for Jolanta to stay. Shirley asked her daughter, who asked her mother-in-law Joanie Hastings, who not only welcomed Jolanta into her home for the next two years, but treated her like her own family. "The list of people who helped me achieve my goals is long and I am thankful to all of them," Jolanta said.
After graduating with a degree in management, Jolanta - recommended by a friend she met through Bill Donovan - began a marketing internship with Greteg Imaging. She was skeptical about stepping into the marketing field and taking on an internship when she would prefer to jump into her first job, but taking chances had always worked well for Jolanta. She ended up loving the experience and met a contact who helped her land her next job working for Kodak Polska in Poland as a sales and marketing manager of Greteg equipment after she returned to her home country. When Greteg shut its doors, Jolanta became the marketing product manager at Kodak for the markets in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Two years later she became the marketing communications and public relations manager at Nokia, before taking on a new challenge and becoming the corporate communications and public relations manager for Huawei, a Chinese-owned company based in Warsaw, Poland.
Her multicultural background provided a great experience for the students in Janice Fedor's international marketing class and two of Bill Donovan's accounting classes during her recent visit. She told the students that her biggest challenge has been adjusting to the Chinese culture in the workplace. "It is a completely different way of working than I'm used to" she said. "But trips to China have helped me understand the culture." Adjusting to the team-based environment at Huawei (where group decision rather than individual responsibility is practiced) has been a challenge for Jolanta, but she believes all experiences bring opportunity.
"Try different things, even if it's hard, because you have to have the experience in different fields to finally decide what you want to do and what is the most efficient for you," she said to the students as she stressed the importance of networking and being open to new situations.
Jolanta is completing her post-graduate studies in luxury brand management at Kozminski University (where she had originally applied before coming to Elms) and plans to begin marketing luxury products such as yachts and airplanes. She still frequently meets up with Bill Donovan and other members of the Elms faculty and staff when she is in the area, and extends the offer to visit her home in Poland to the many friends she has made here. Jolanta has made it her personal goal to become successful professionally, to travel, and to encourage charity wherever she goes.
"I like helping because I got lots of help from others, so I feel I have to pay it back."