When my students apply for a scholarship and do not get it, I always tell them when one door closes another opens, so perhaps it is for the best. This is a lesson I need to remember for myself as I teach it to others.
I was totally infuriated over the fact that an American Studies department at the largest university in Central Europe could even think of cutting the position of their native speakers. As the universe responds to needs, the ultimate head of the English department forwarded an e-mail he received asking me to respond to it. This gentleman from an institute in Washington state was looking for a university to make a cooperative connection with in Budapest. Up to now, he has been hitting brick walls with no one giving a positive response before he was even able to explain what he wanted. I was not sure what powers my head of department was instilling on me; why would I be the one to write him back? I was given the warning though that the university had absolutely no money for anything new. How well I knew this mantra having my job threatened every two years.
I wrote the writer back and it turned out we have extensive pages long ‘discussions’ in the course of the afternoon. He is currently in London. He represents a program that confers an MFA degree for Creative Writing. That is their only position in academia. Currently, they are working on accreditation. The US Embassy in both Finland and Portugal have flown him to universities in those countries to give seminars and lectures, thus he is trying to set up cooperative agreements in each region. By chance, he and his wife came to Budapest for a vacation and not surprisingly, he fell in love with the city and wanted to establish some working relationship here.
Our students have been crying for a creative writing option for years. This would be a match made in heaven if we could do something like this. Before making any further exploratory commitments, I forwarded a note to the ultimate department head as well as my department chair who has been resistant to any creative writing possibilities. The suggestion was that this could fit into the new journalism, media program. With the ultimate head on my side, I knew that the department head had to be swayed to concede to our side. It worked! I received the affirmation that this indeed could be a bonus for our program.
We are in the thralls of excitement, but first the institute needs to get the final go from their Board of Directors to actually make this happen. If it does, then our university will be paid for room rental, another coup. No money put out, but money coming in.
This point brings me to another reason why I was angered over the positions being cut. It was due to me and my contacts that our department received eight brand new computers and a grant of two million forints ($12,600) for infrastructure from an American company based here in Budapest. Without my endeavors, this would never have happened. That amount is more than I earn in a year, so I have paid for my salary and still earned the department money.