Bringing American Perspective to Eastern Europe, and Vice Versa

Thomas Smith, Ph.D. | Dr. Leon A. Bosch ’29 Professor of Management

In 2013, Dr. Thomas Smith took a leave from Hope to spend a year at Emanuel University in Romania. Originally an underground college for pastors, it became a Christian university after the Soviet Union dissolved. Some students he taught there still seek his counsel as they grapple with how to live out Christian ethics in a business community that plays by different rules. In 2019, he visited Lithuania and Moldova to scout out opportunities for Hope students to experience life and the business world in the former Soviet bloc.

In Romania, if you want to get your business to the next level, you have to play the game, and that often means bribes. Young men and women from Emanuel going into business rise quickly and they very quickly run into a dilemma. If they say no to bribes, the company could go down, but if they say yes to keep the business going, they sacrifice their principles. That’s not something you and I in the United States have to deal with. It’s easy for me to say, ‘Well, of course don’t pay the bribe’ — but there’s way more to that decision than the simple black and white.

Our students need to experience something beyond a traditional semester at Hope College. We’re trying to find places that have a particular type of community where students can be exposed to and understand how all the dimensions of a community work. Some of these opportunities need to be in Eastern Europe, because that particular location and the nature of programs there will transform their lives.