ASU professor receives high honor from Romanian president

A group of people outside in Romania

ASU Professor Ileana Orlich (first row, second from right) with ASU summer study program in Cluj, Romania.


Twenty years after Romanian studies arrived at Arizona State University, and a century after Romania became a modern state, ASU Professor and Director of the Romanian and Central European Cultural Collaborative Ileana Orlich is being honored with high distinction by the president of Romania, Klaus Werner Iohannis.

The president will award Orlich the medal in a special ceremony at Bucharest's Cotroceni Palace on Aug. 30.

The distinction, marking the country’s centennial, is one of several given out to civilians by the Romanian government. Orlich’s award honors Romanians who “promote Romanian language and national identity abroad.”

But the ASU President’s Professor said the award exemplifies the quality and contributions of ASU's faculty and her school, not just her.

“All this is made possible by the incredible opportunities offered by ASU,” Orlich said. “And by the great support that our program has had in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and my wonderful and supportive colleagues in SILC, the School of International Letters and Cultures, which is the home of many vibrant language and culture programs of which Romanian is one.”

This is the second time the Romanian government has recognized Orlich, giving her a similar cultural distinction in 2004, in part for her translation of Romanian plays and other cultural contributions representing Romanian cultures abroad.

Orlich started the Romanian language program with only 10 students in 1998. Twenty years later, it has expanded into the largest Romanian studies program in the world, the only freestanding Romanian studies program in the United States and first Lectorate of Romanian funded by the Romanian Language Institute in a traditional academic environment.

In addition to domestic studies, the program participates in cultural and academic exchanges with the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania, and is planning similar collaborations with Ovidius University.

In addition to her distinctions, Orlich was named Honorary Consul General of Romania in Arizona in 2010, a position that has enabled her “to reach out to the Romanian community, to visit various parishes and cultural halls and become very involved with the dialogue within the community." 

Orlich said that moving forward the program will continue making progress on academic collaboration.

“My hope is that through cultural collaboration, we can only strengthen all the tiers of the strong connections that exist between Romania, as a strong ally of the United States, and being also a great academic partner, through the universities with which we partner,” she said.

In addition to helping facilitate a dialogue between the two countries, Orlich said the inception of the New American University, a concept pioneered by ASU President Michael M. Crow, ushered the program into its current stature and international acclaim.

“The New American University was the most powerful turning point in the program in the sense that we now had academic support, administrative encouragement and student activities all geared toward the growth of the Romanian studies program — nationally — and internationally,” Orlich said.

But the most integral people in making the program successful, Orlich said, are the students.

“The distinction is a recognition of this program’s faculty, and of course the students.” she said. “At the end of the day I am grateful to my students for making it all possible — they are my world.”

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