A Hobart junior did a research project on Roma (gypsies) in Eastern Europe.
April 9, 2003 GENEVA, N.Y.—Jeremy Cooney, a member of the Hobart Class of 2004, studied in Germany, Hungary and Romania abroad in the fall of 2002, as part of a collaborative abroad program through Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Cooney will present the research he conducted there in a presentation titled “The Roma: Past, Present, and Future: Undiscovered Truths Revealed,” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, in Gulick Hall, room 100, on the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus. The presentation is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow. This presentation is also a part of the Colleges' Human Rights and Genocide Forum spring series.
Cooney worked on this project with Alexandra Kagan, a Union College junior, as part of the Partnership for Global Education (PGE) program between Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Union College. The PGE was established in 1999 through funding of the Andrew W. Mellon foundation to develop innovative collaborative management of international programs and new initiatives to integrate study abroad into the academic and social fabric of campus life. Projects include a journal aimed at students with experience abroad, and a network to put first-hand student expertise to work in schools in the areas adjacent to the campuses.
Cooney and Kagan's project focused on breaking through the stereotypes of the Roma (also known as Gypsies) and gaining an understanding of the culture. They examined some of the policies that states in the region have adopted to try to accommodate the Roma, and grass-roots programs designed to help the Roma help themselves. Their presentation will include video and still images taken from their field research and will be followed by a question and answer period.
“The research alone was an incredible experience,” said Cooney. “For the first time in my life I was able to conduct a substantive research endeavor outside of a classroom setting. It was solely my responsibility to make the contacts, get myself to interviews, set-up interpreters, and find the necessary financial resources.”
The Roma migrated across Europe in the 10th century and have remained a distinct ethnic group, often living apart from the majority populations in poor conditions. Relations between the scattered groups of Roma and the majority populations have always been difficult and are at a critical point today, as Roma are faced with the choice to integrate into their nations of residence at the expense of their traditional culture and lifestyle, or to continue to subsist on society's margins, often victimized by hate crimes and prejudice.
Cooney received a grant from the PGE's Student International Initiatives Fund (SIIF) to conduct research. SIIF provides small grants to students studying abroad to undertake projects that build upon their own interests or that augment their existing course of study.
“The grant allowed me to document my experiences with the Roma in Romania during my abroad trip,” said Cooney. “The project included talking with Roma in all levels of society, interviewing government officials, witnessing the vibrant Roma culture, visiting humanitarian organizations, and most importantly exploring Romany villages and settlements within the cities and on the outskirts of major Romanian locals.”