In 1997, Paul and Sonja Unger assembled an advisory group of 45 American and Croatian banking, education, and government leaders to found the Unger Croatia Institute for Public Administration. This organization assisted reform-minded leaders as they facilitated Croatia’s transition from the devastating civil war that followed their independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.
Mr. Unger established a fellowship program designed to assist senior Croatian officials moving toward improved practices in government administered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Between 1998 and 2001, the Ungers personally sponsored 22 Fellows at the Kennedy School, including Deputy Prime Ministers, Parliamentary Committee Chairs, Ambassadors, and a Presidential candidate.
To provide similar education and professional development for local elected officials, Mr. Unger turned to the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. The Unger Croatia Center for Local Government Leadership was created within the Levin College in 2001.
The success of the Cleveland seminars led to an Education Bridge between Levin College and the University of Rijeka which, in 2003, hosted the first Unger seminar for public officials in Croatia with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In Spring, 2004, the University of Rijeka introduced its first programs in Public Administration and Public Health Administration, an important step toward one of the Unger’s goals, the first-ever-in-Croatia Graduate School of Public Administration.
In 2009, Paul passed away; his wife Sonja, an architect and civic leader, followed, passing away in 2016. However, the educational impact of these two amazing individuals will withstand for generations to come.
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