Americans in Switzerland: Meet Fulbright Specialist Joanna Woronkowicz

Social scientist Joanna Woronkowicz was selected as a Fulbright Specialist to work with Zurich University of the Arts (ZhdK Zurich). We caught up with her to learn more about her experience in Zurich and with the program.

What was your motivation to collaborate with ZhdK Zurich?
I had a couple of motivations. First, I wanted to work within an art school so that I could apply my research on artists. I study the occupational behavior of artists, including how these workers make decisions concerning work. At ZHdK I was able to work alongside early-career artists (those who were either just about to enter, or had just entered the labor market) and observe the dynamics of these workers in relation to trying to establish their careers. I also got the opportunity to discuss and consult on curricula for artists – especially in terms of broadening artists’ and art schools’ understanding of the potential role of artists in the labor market. Second, I wanted to work in a context that was different than my daily work (i.e., at a policy school in the U.S.) so I could start to develop a comparative perspective for how societies value artistic work, and more broadly, art and culture.

What was the main focus of your participation in this Fulbright specialist exchange program at ZhdK Zurich?
My main focus was application of my research on artists. I began my program by giving a presentation on my research on artists to the staff and faculty at ZHdK. Here, I was able to align my research with the work going on at ZHdK in terms of training art students and preparing them to enter the workforce. After this presentation, I met with several staff and faculty at ZHdK to discuss specific elements of their work that my research could help inform. For example, I met with the Quality Assurance team responsible for tracking the outcomes of ZHdK graduates and suggested alternative evaluation methods that more closely align with the trajectory of artist careers. I also participated in a series of ongoing planning conversations for developing a new curricula in international cultural policy, which will serve as cultural exchange between ZHdK and my home institution in the future.

What are the next steps in collaboration with the ZhdK Zurich?
In February, I’m heading to Paris to participate in a symposium on “The Future of Cultural Policies” being planned by researchers at ZHdK. I’m also working with my host at ZHdK in developing an exchange program in international cultural policy where I will bring students from my home institution to Zurich each summer to study alongside ZHdK students.

What impressed you at ZhdK Zurich?
It is difficult to not be impressed by ZHdK upon walking into its magnificent building. ZHdK is housed in an enormous multi-disciplinary purpose-built arts facility that includes everything from ballet studios to wood working workshops, to theater production space, to arts education classrooms. As a result of the space, I think the environment at ZHdK emphasizes collaboration, creativity, and exploration. I would take breaks during the day to walk around and explore the space, and would often find myself engaging with all types of art – such as light exhibits and dance performances – that I would not have probably made an effort to see if I wasn’t at ZHdK.

What was the most surprising / most positive experience in Switzerland?
Switzerland is easy to love. I think the country likely has one of the most beautiful landscapes that I’ve ever seen with its cascading snow-peaked mountains, rolling hills, and crystal clear lakes and rivers. There is a sense that the Swiss take responsibility for protecting their land through not polluting and conserving natural resources. While in Switzerland, I was so impressed with how energy efficient everything was: lights turn off automatically, escalators only move when you use them, and people open windows instead of cranking their air conditioning. I was thoroughly impressed.

About Joanna Woronkowicz:
Dr. Joanna Woronkowicz conducts research in cultural policy. She is an assistant professor at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington. Prior to joining O’Neill in 2013, she served as the senior research officer at the National Endowment for the Arts. Her 2014 co-authored book, Building Better Arts Facilities: Lessons from a U.S. National Study documents the experiences of several arts organizations upon building major facilities. Woronkowicz is co-founder and director of the Center for Cultural Affairs, and co-director of the Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Lab.

The Fulbright Specialist Program, part of the larger Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The program pairs highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share their expertise, strengthen institutional linkages, hone their skills, gain international experience, and learn about other cultures while building capacity at their overseas host institutions. For more info, click here.