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Long Journey Brings Talented Teachers to WSSU

By Erik Spencer
On November 8, 2007

  • Ludovic and Diona Kovalik have taught at Winston-Salem State since 2004. Erik Spencer

When Ludovic and Doina Kovalik graduated from college in Romania, they were unaware of the road that lay before them. Both had a love for language and literature, and most of all, for each other.

The Kovaliks arrived as part of the faculty of Winston-Salem State University after a long and arduous journey, one that brought them halfway around the world to teach in the U.S. Since 2004, they have been teaching in the Department of English and Foreign Languages.

Ludovic and Doina grew up in Arad, a city in western Romania. "It's a region we call Transylvania, and Americans are familiar with Transylvania from Bram Stoker's novel [Dracula]," Doina said.

"We are what Americans call, 'high school sweethearts'," she said. The couple met in the spring semester of their junior year. After high school, Doina enrolled in college in Romania. Ludovic explained that he got drafted for 10 months of military training. This service was required by law, at that time, in Communist Romania. Before going to college he had to take a university entrance exam.

"If you did well you got drafted for 10 months of military training, and if you did poorly you got 18 months," he said. At any rate, when Ludovic enrolled in college, he was a year behind Doina.

Having graduated from college in Romania with bachelor's degrees in English and French languages and literatures, the Kovaliks went on to teach English as a foreign language in Romania for several years at Baia Mare University.

At the time, teaching English was a considered a dodgy subject. English teachers in Romania were often considered to be spies because they could speak the language of the enemy.

"We were not allowed to speak the language to anyone except for our students, and if a rare American tourist had asked us for directions in the street, we were to respond in Romanian that we did not speak English."

All that changed in December of 1989, when a series of riots, known as the Romanian Revolution, led to the violent overthrow of the Communist regime. The revolution breathed new democratic hope into a country that had long been stymied. "Metaphorically put, that [revolution] was the equivalent of a new sunrise in the lives of the Romanians," Ludovic said.

Prior to arriving in the U.S. in 1998, the Kovaliks had begun research in cognitive linguistics for their doctoral degrees. The novel subjects they chose were difficult to research in Romania, and they had all but exhausted their search for new sources before applying to graduate programs in the U.S.

"We just weren't able to retrieve enough sources for a doctorate's dissertation," Ludovic said. They came to America out of academic needs and not some romantic notion, Ludovic said.

"America offered me the opportunity to become a specialist in an area I was interested in, and that was cognitive linguistics," Doina said.

After both were accepted into the graduate program at Oklahoma State University, the Kovaliks left Romania for America, where their studies kept them very busy. "We didn't have any breaks for five years," Doina said. During this period the Kovaliks completed master's and doctoral degrees-a monumental task, considering most students take three years to complete a master's degree and between five and six for a doctoral degree. In May 2004 they graduated from OSU.

"When we came here, we were not sure if we would be staying," Ludovic explained. "We didn't know if we would succeed or not."

However, by this time, the Kovaliks were deeply rooted in America, with a son who had just graduated from college himself and was about to get married. Ultimately, their decision to move to North Carolina was to find a place that had a low cost of living and wasn't too far from their son, who had landed a job in Cleveland, Ohio.

After moving to North Carolina, the Kovaliks landed teaching positions at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C. While they enjoyed working at SCC, they eventually felt the need to move on. The lack of research opportunities prompted them to search out new positions, eventually leading them to WSSU.

"They weren't encouraging us to do research in our interests. There is more opportunity for research here," Ludovic said.

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