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January 26, 2001

Accounting Professor Back from Third Fulbright

Consider him the Ambassador of Accounting. Eugene Sauls returns to campus this semester after completing a Fulbright lectureship at the University of Rijeka in Croatia.

It was the globetrotting accounting professor's third Fulbright, including a stay in Turkey in 1984 and Hungary in 1992.

In each case, Sauls gave lectures and worked with professors at the host university. And, Sauls says, language was never a problem. "I am amazed at the ability of people to speak English," he says.

While in Croatia, Sauls taught classes in Western-style accounting practices. Many of the teaching techniques he used are similar to those used in U.S. classrooms. Sauls prepared his lecture notes in PowerPoint, then had them translated into Croatian by an assistant. Sauls would present the lecture in English while displaying the Croatian PowerPoint presentation.

"It seemed to work very well," he says. "Their language skills, especially English, were generally very good. Occasionally, I said something that they just didn't understand so we had to work at it for awhile."

Of course, there were differences as well. "The Croatian students were not accustomed to challenging a professor. It took them a while to get used to that and to constant questions from me," he says.

"There was a larger percentage of excellent students and a larger percentage of poor students. They were typically just out of high school. Like our students, they are more concerned with procedure than with concepts, but through class activities they took some interest in concepts - in part because I told them that concepts would be on the exam."

In Turkey, Sauls was actually able to bring about a change in the education system. "I sent a letter to the head of Turkish education with my observations of their system compared to ours. Within four weeks, some radical changes were made that were consistent with my suggestions," he says.

The situation in Hungary was less challenging. Sauls says, "My Fulbright to Hungary was in a special program for outstanding students selected from Eastern European countries. I think that every student I worked with came to the United States and got their MBA, all from leading institutions."

Students weren't the only ones learning. On each Fulbright, Sauls developed a sense of the country.

"Turkey was more exotic. Hungary was more cosmopolitan. Croatia is more Californian," he says. "In Croatia we lived on the water and enjoyed the view every morning - when it wasn't raining."

Though Sauls says the probability of a fourth Fulbright "approaches zero," he doesn't rule out future visits to the sites of his last three.

He has returned to Hungary on several programs and to Turkey as a tourist. "We have already discussed the possibility of my returning to Croatia. I would love to," he says.

The advantage of making an overseas trip on a Fulbright, Sauls says, is that you get more attention from the leaders of the community and from the embassy.

In Croatia, for example, Sauls and other "Fulbrighters" were invited to lunch with Croatian president Stjepan Mesic. It was the day after Slobodan Milosevic stepped down in Yugoslavia and Sauls was able to ask Mesic about the change.

He was not overly optimistic, Sauls says.

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