Abstract

Connecticut welcomed a considerable number of Polish immigrants in the late nineteenth century, and again just after World War II. The latter group included a large number of intellectuals, politicians, and artists. They actively joined civic organizations like the Polish American Congress (PAC). The 1960s and 1970s was a dynamic time for the Connecticut Division of the PAC especially the Committee on Education and Culture. Their work was instrumental in getting the state to establish a Polish Studies Program at Central Connecticut State College. The program allowed for in-depth academic courses related to Poland’s history, politics, and culture, and the establishment of a Polish Heritage Room and Collection in the university library. The Program also had a community-outreach function that provided evening lectures and cultural events free to the public. Later, various endowments allowed several cultural programs to be sustained and an endowed chair in Polish Studies to be created. Today the program is on a firm footing. A formal minor in Polish History is now available and community programs have expanded to include public lectures delivered by prominent historians, writers, musicians, journalists, politicians, and film makers draw large audiences. This article presents a case study in how local community groups working with university officials and elected state and local government representatives can successfully create a high quality Polish Studies program that benefits both the university community and the larger surrounding population.

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