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Students of the Master Studies in Integral Urbanism from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade upon return to Serbia – letter and impressions of Professor Jerry Anthony, Ph.D. FAICP, Associate Professor at SPPA.

In April 2022, the cold, cloudy skies of a lingering winter in Iowa City were pierced by a breath of sunshine and fresh air from Eastern Europe.  On April 9, two students, Iva Kojic and Jovana Kolasinac, from the Faculty of Architecture & Integral Urbanism at the University of Belgrade arrived at the School of Planning & Public Affairs (SPPA), University of IowaJessup Hall, where SPPA is located, had been home to Prof. Uros Radosavljevic in 2011, and now, over a decade later, two of his students were gracing this building.


Iva and Jovana settled in very quickly over the weekend into their home away from home at the Quality Inn in Coralville, Iowa. In their first week at SPPA, Iva & Jovana sat in class meetings of a wide variety of courses, ranging from Prof. Hiafeng Qian’s Economic Development Policy, Prof. Samantha Zuhlke’s  Environment & Society, Prof. Phuong Nguyen’s Financing Local Government, and Prof. Jerry Anthony’s Housing Policy and Growth Management courses. Before and after attending class meetings, Iva & Jovana found time to meet with 2nd year Master of Public Affairs (MPA) students Noel Mills and Michaela Dohleman who showed them around several parts of the campus and with 1st year MPA student Minela Ikanovic, who has Serbian ancestry and speaks Serbian and took them to other parts of the campus and the city (and importantly, took them to the largest shopping mall in the area).  Iva & Jovana could also join the Director of SPPA Prof. Lucie Laurian for lunch one day, and Prof. Zuhlke for coffee another day.  So overall, as you can perhaps sense, their first week at SPPA was hectic, with activities from morning to evening every day.  At the end of long days, on some days they were driven home by SPPA faculty (Prof. Qian and Prof. Phuong) but on most days they rode the Coralville transit bus that had very conveniently located stops for their daily trips, a few steps away from Jessup Hall on the one end and very near their hotel on the other end.  On their first weekend, Iva & Jovana got to do more shopping, go to an Easter service at an American Protestant church, the Iowa City Church of Christ, and see many neighborhoods and recreation areas in Iowa City.

By the second week, Iva and Jovana had become quite familiar with their busy daily routine – breakfast at the Quality Inn, a quick walk to the bus stop just outside their hotel by Trader Joe’s, a 20-minute bus ride to Jessup, several classes, conversations with SPPA students and faculty, often in the SPPA drafting room where Iva & Jovana were given their own personal desks and lockers, lunch in downtown Iowa City, and a short bus-ride back home early in the evening.  In the middle of the second week, SPPA along with the University of Iowa’s International Programs Office arranged a welcome reception for them in the SPPA drafting room.  Guests of honor were, of course, Iva and Jovana.  The University of Iowa Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs Prof. Russell Ganim gave a rousing welcome speech, praising Iva & Jovana for being the students that kicked off the TESLAS program, promising his continuing support for TESLAS and to Iowa students going to Belgrade and future students from Belgrade coming to Iowa.  Later that week, on Sunday, Iva & Jovana were able to attend Easter services in a Greek Orthodox church in Iowa City.


The third and fourth weeks, their last two weeks in the US, were even more hectic for our Serbian adventurers.  At the beginning of the third week, they gave an excellent presentation about the framework for spatial planning in Serbia – the audience, a select group of SPPA-ers, loved it!  Then they flew to sunny San Diego, located on the Pacific coast of the state of California, to participate in the annual national conference of the American Planning Association. This conference has over 4,000 attendees from all over the U.S. and from a few other countries.  In San Diego, they stayed in a cute hostel in the historic Gaslamp quarter of San Diego, a 10-minute walk away from the conference venue, the San Diego Convention Center.  For three-and-half days, they attended numerous sessions, heard from excellent speakers, and learned about cutting-edge planning strategies in housing, transportation, community development, and historic preservation.  In spite of the packed conference schedule, they managed to tear themselves away for brief periods from all the invigorating intellectual food that they were being served at the conference and explore the beaches, the waves, and the eclectic food scene of downtown San Diego.  Right after the conference, they took a bus to reach LALA land – Los Angeles, the city of dreams.  Iva and Jovana spent two magical days there before flying back to Iowa City.  Then they had one full day in Iowa City before they boarded a late-night bus for the 5-hour journey to Chicago, their next stop.  A day of seeing the many architectural wonders in Chicago was the icing on the cake for their amazing American adventure.


In their time in Iowa City, in classroom discussions and presentations, Iva and Jovana made excellent contributions to the discussions, asking thought-provoking questions that elevated the quality of discussions.  Outside the classroom, in walking around campus, or at lunch, they were delightful company – collegial, courteous, and friendly – always comparing life in Serbia with life in America.  SPPA-ers learned much from Iva & Jovana; in turn, Iva & Jovana learned much from SPPA-ers.  Iva & Jovana impressed faculty, students, and staff at SPPA; when they left, many faculty and staff wished that the two could have stayed at SPPA longer!  Perhaps Iva & Jovana will come again to SPPA.  The University of Belgrade could not have sent better ambassadors to SPPA!  May many more such ambassadors come to SPPA in the years ahead!   And surely SPPA will send a few students to the University of Belgrade in the years to come.  Viva la TESLAS!

Professor Jerry Anthony


* The visit of our students and academic exchange is realized through the cooperation between the University of Iowa in Iowa, the USA and the University of Belgrade on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding from 2019 initiated by the Faculty of Urban and Regional Planning (former name of the faculty) from the University of Iowa and the University of Belgrade Faculty of Architecture, as well as through a two-way exchange program for master students called TESLAS – Two-way Exchange Semester Linking America and Serbia, conducted by the American Councils in Belgrade.

Associate Professor Uroš Radosavljević, PhD

Head of the study programme Master Studies in Integral Urbanism, in charge of implementing the Memorandum of Understanding at the University of Belgrade