Rolandas Kriščiūnas, Thomas Bryer and Jeff Nelson(Left to right) Rolandas Kriščiūnas, U.S. Lithuanian Ambassador; Professor Thomas Bryer, UCF School of Public Administration; Jeff Nelson, Honorary Consul of Lithuania in Virginia, former Executive Director of the U.S. Baltic Foundation

Through the generosity of the Kojelis Family, the U.S. Baltic Foundation’s $250,000 donation to the UCF Foundation will support students in the new dual undergraduate program in public administration and nonprofit management. The Kojelis Family Program and Student Support Fund provides financial assistance to program students, particularly for travel between Lithuania and Florida and accommodations when students arrive in Florida.

Students from UCF and Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania (KTU) will study as a cohort over four years and attend one semester at each university. Other semesters, students will conduct joint work remotely.

The US Baltic Foundation was formed in 1991, following the independence of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from the Soviet Union. Its mission was to develop and strengthen ties between the people of the United States and the three Baltic countries. Donations helped create public service programs in the region, like at KTU, including public administration programs and the Municipal Training Center. This donation, with support from the Kojelis family, is the last of the cash assets of the foundation.

Thomas Bryer, professor of public administration at UCF, led the development of the dual degree program and reached out to the foundation to link financial resources to the program’s students. According to Bryer, “The generosity of the Kojelis family and due diligence of the U.S. Baltic Foundation is making possible the next stage of public service capacity building and professionalization in the Baltic States. With this program and this fund, we will introduce a formal degree program in nonprofit management for KTU students. The best and most passionate students who want to further develop civil society in Lithuania and elsewhere, will not be hindered by a lack of travel resources or living expenses in Florida, and UCF students will experience the richness of life in the Baltic States.”

Eglė Vaidelytė, associate professor and dual degree program coordinator at KTU, reflects on the transformational potential of the program and fund. “This fund is making a mark in the history of public administration studies and eventually the development of public governance quality.”

Ainius Lašas, dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities at KTU, says, “The establishment of the Kojelis Family Program and Student Support Fund at UCF brings our cooperation to a new level. It is a genuine student-focused initiative, which helps future exchange students overcome financial hurdles and facilitates US-Baltic academic exchange. I am most grateful to the Kojelis family and the US Baltic Foundation for their generosity and support. The program and fund represent a long-standing vision of many Baltic Americans to see closer ties between our respective nations.”

The foundation will also donate its archives to UCF for digitization to be made available for the program’s students, as well as others for research. According to Bryer, “The archive will be a shared resource for UCF and KTU, and the broader Baltic American community. This rich collection of primary documents are from an organization that was on the frontlines, building the capacity of post-Soviet states to become the nations we know today.”

Bryer says the donation would not have been possible without the effort of Jeff Nelson, Honorary Consul of Lithuania in Virginia and former executive director of the U.S. Baltic Foundation. “His passion and enthusiasm for Lithuania, for public service and for building partnerships between our countries, is the kind of light that will continue to inspire us as we implement this program and see the fruits of our collective investments over the next decades. Thanks to Jeff Nelson, the Kojelis Family and our extraordinary partners at KTU, we are launching this innovative program in the strongest of positions, to achieve the greatest of impacts in Lithuania and the United States.”

The School of Public Administration at the University of Central Florida is dedicated to providing a quality education to undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in pursuing careers in nonprofit management, urban and regional planning, research administration, emergency management and public administration. We strive to create a brighter future for our students so that they, in turn, can better serve the community.