SIU Law Professor to teach international and comparative law in Poland

Southern Illinois University (SIU) Law Professor Cindy Buys is visiting Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland as a part of its one-year International and Comparative Law Program for the next two months.

Buys found out about the program through a Polish colleague she mentored through the American Society of International Law.

“I knew that I was going on sabbatical this spring and I reached out to a number of my international contacts around the world,” Buys said. “She connected me to one of her colleagues, one of the professors at the university, and working with him, we applied for a grant to fund my travel and living expenses and stuff to go and teach at the university.”


According to its website, Nicolaus Copernicus University, founded in 1945 , was named after a well-known mathematician and astronomer.

“It is taught all in English. Some of the students are Polish but there are also students that come from other countries in Europe to take the program,” Buys said. “It’s taught by some of the Polish professors, It’s also taught by some professors from other countries in Europe, and then I’ll be the [only person visiting from America] this year.”

Buys got her education in law earning her master’s and law degree from Syracuse University and later received  her LLM advanced degree from Georgetown University, she said.

“Right out of law school, I went to work for a large law firm in Washington D.C. and I was working with international trade and transportation issues,” Buys said. “ I did that for about seven or eight years and then I went to the U.S. Department of Commerce and was working on international trade issues for the U.S. government for a couple of years and then I came here to teach.”

This won’t be Buys’ first time teaching abroad. Becoming a Fullbright Scholar in 2008 gave her the chance to teach in a “unique program” in Lithuania, she said.

“[It]  was set up where [there were]  1/3 Lithuanian students, 1/3 students from Belarus, and 1/3 students from the United States,” Buys said. “So we have this really dynamic classroom discussion and interactions about [the] different governmental systems.”

While teaching here, Buys said  she also ran a study abroad program in 2008 to Ireland and Wales.


“I took students over there several times and really got to know our colleagues, in Ireland especially. Then that led to me becoming a visiting professor at a law school in Bangor, Wales, in 2015,” Buys said. “I spent an entire semester there teaching human rights types of issues to the British and Welsh students.”

Buys said she’s aware of the situation in  Poland with war at its  border, but because of  her education in refugee law, plans to help any way she can.

“It really has become such a huge part of Polish life right now, so I’m sure that it will affect my visit,” Buys said. “Observing firsthand, this refugee crisis will be fascinating and I’m sure that I will learn a lot about how the European Union, particularly in Poland specifically, is responding to this crisis and helping Ukrainians.”

While in Poland, Buys said, she might get the opportunity to document stories of Ukrainian refugees, since many of her colleagues there work on documenting war crimes that possibly were committed in Ukraine.

One of the things that we’re talking about is potentially interviewing some of the Ukrainians who have fled to try to document their stories,” Buys said. “As there are investigations, international criminal law investigations going forward, we may be able to help contribute to some of the evidence gatherings that are being done.”

Buys said she learns something every chance she gets to go abroad.

“When I was teaching in Wales in 2015, they actually did a better job of accommodating their students with disabilities. They had more requirements for professors to do things that were assisting their students.” Buys said. “It was really helpful for the students that I even changed my syllabus to add some additional policies.”

While in Poland Buys said she hopes to still be able to explore and is hoping to visit Prague in the Czech Republic.

“I don’t really know how the refugee crisis might affect my ability to do that. Right now, because the trains are crowded, even Airbnb has really stepped up to house refugees so there may be fewer [available],” Buys said. “There might be some opportunities to do some fun things and to learn more about the history and the culture.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.