News

July 21, 2003

Domber ’97 Receives Fulbright Grant to Study Role of U.S. in Ending Communism in Poland

He also gets grant to study Polish language at Jagiellonian University in Krakow this summer.

History and philosophy graduate Greg Domber ’97 will use a 2003-04 Fulbright grant to study the role of the United States in ending the communist system in Poland. Based at the Institute for Political Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences, he will conduct archival research and interview former Communist government officials, church leaders, and prominent dissidents. He will focus on U.S. policies from the declaration of martial law in December 1981 to August 1989, when Poland elected the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe.

Poland was the first country in Eastern Europe to hold free elections, which took place well before the fall of the Berlin Wall, notes Domber.

“There was a strong Polish-American connection, from American economic policies to support of the Solidarity trade union to the Reagan administration’s relationship with the Catholic church in Poland,” he says. “What I’m trying to do is figure out how well American policies worked — how they helped or hindered the opposition movement in Poland.”

Domber also received an American Councils for International Education grant to study the Polish language at Jagiellonian University in Krakow this summer. He presented a research paper in May at the University of California-Santa Barbara/George Washington University Graduate Student Conference on the Cold War, and again in June at the annual conference of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. He also shared his research at the Graduate Student Conference on the Cold War in 2000.

Working as an EXCEL Scholar at Lafayette with Arnold Offner, Cornelia F. Hugel Professor of History, provided important experience in researching foreign policy, he says.

“It was the first opportunity I had to do real nitty-gritty document research,” Domber explains. “Reading through volumes on American foreign relations, I found out that I really liked it. Professor Offner was very animated, very excited about his work. He also was an absolutely wonderful lecturer. Taking two sections of American foreign policy really got me interested academically in the field.”

“The opportunity to have a one-on-one research mentor showed me what it’s like to be a real historian,” he adds. “I found that very exciting, and that’s what led to internships in Washington and graduate school. Without that one-on-one interaction and small classes, I don’t think I would have done this myself.”

Domber first secured an internship at the National Security Archive, which uses the Freedom of Information Act to have the U.S. government declassify foreign policy information on a wide variety of topics, and then publishes the documents for researchers. He added an internship at the Cold War International History Project, which uses newly opened archives on former (Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) and currently communist countries (China, Vietnam, Cuba) to gain a better perspective on the “other side” of the Cold War. As a research assistant at both organizations, Domber wrote a series of briefs introducing documents on Cold War flashpoints in East Berlin (1953), Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), Poland (1980-82), and Eastern Europe (1989), some of which have been published. He still works for both groups.

He served as a research assistant for the Cold War International History Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from March 1998 through July 1999.

A graduate teaching assistant, Domber is pursuing a Ph.D. in American history at George Washington University, with an emphasis on U.S. diplomatic history, particularly during the Cold War. He graduated cum laude from Lafayette with honors in history, completing a thesis under Offner’s direction on the Prague Spring uprising in 1968. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta (history) academic honor societies, and participated in Technology Clinic.

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