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Dr. Ileana Alexandra Olrich shows off her collection.
Photo by Cameron Kelly

Dr. Ileana Alexandra Orlich, director of ASU’s Romanian Studies program, is no stranger to excellence.

Walking into her office, it is clear that Dr. Orlich is an accomplished person. Her shelves are close to bursting with her work and her desk practically groans under the weight of multiple awards, honors and various tokens of appreciation.

With her smooth, yet passionate manner of speaking, it is hardly surprising that the Romanian program has flourished with her as its charismatic leader.

Upon first glance, she immediately identifies my German and Central European heritage before saying anything else. She then launches into a detailed history of the Romanian language and culture.

Clearly Orlich is an expert.

Since founding the Romanian program at ASU in 1998, Orlich’s accomplishments and honors have continued to stack up, not the least of which include her recent appointment as one of ASU’s newest President’s Professors.

Each year, three professors who exemplify teaching excellence and student engagement and also succeed in their research ventures receive the President’s Professor award. While any professor at ASU is eligible to be nominated, past winners have often been science or mathematics professors. Orlich is the first language professor to receive the award.

Despite this lofty honor, however, Orlich remains humble. “The Romanian program is privileged to be a part of ASU, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of International Letters and Cultures,” she says.

Along with lecturer Julieta Paulesc, Orlich has built ASU’s Romanian program into the largest of its kind in the United States. The language, which bears resemblance to Spanish, French, and Italian, has a surprisingly robust student enrollment at ASU even though Romanian is not commonly spoken.

Drawing heavy student participation and enjoying international recognition, the program (which also includes the ASU Central and Eastern European Cultural Collaborative within the Department of English) hosts European artists, writers, actors and playwrights,  as well as a yearly lecturer from Romania who teaches several courses at ASU. The latter is sent and funded by the Romanian government, a fact that illustrates the renown of ASU’s program.

In 2010,  Orlich was appointed Honorary Consul General of Romania for Arizona by the Romanian government as a result of her dedication to teaching the country’s language and culture. In this role, she maintains a strong relationship with the Romanian community in Arizona.

Some may recognize the title as the same which was bestowed upon Olympic gold-medal gymnast Nadia Com?neci in Oklahoma in 2003.

Orlich plays a vital role in the School of International Letters and Cultures, and though Romanian is a “minor” language, Dr. Robert Cutter, director of the School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC), says she is an excellent representative of the school.

Cutter says, “The reason SILC was founded was to promote...trans-disciplinary connections, and she does that very well.” In addition to several upper-division Romanian courses, Orlich also teaches European culture courses in SILC and the Department of English that are noted for challenging cultural and disciplinary boundaries.

Though head of the German, Romanian, and Slavic Language faculty at ASU, Orlich’s area of study and research is comparative literature, and this focus is reflected in her many published works.

A sample of Orlich's works.
Photo by Cameron Kelly

Orlich has translated multiple books (some of which she received Romania’s premier translation prize) and has authored many works herself on a plethora of subjects, ranging from Eastern European theater to linguistics.

The sheer volume of her published work is clear as she lists and stacks each book on the desk in front of her, forming a veritable tower of rich, cultural literature.

Along with the Romanian program, Orlich created ASU’s Summer program to Central Europe and Romania. Many students take part in this transdisciplinary program, both Romanian students and otherwise.

Perhaps the best indicator of the study-abroad program’s quality is the fact that non-ASU students regularly participate. Orlich says that students from institutions such as the University of Washington and the University of California at Berkeley have experienced the four-week journey, and some have done so multiple times.

The popularity of both the Romanian program and the Central European Summer program are in large part due to Orlich’s dedication to the success of students. “Students seem to flock to her once they encounter her,” says Cutter.

Current graduate student Erin Goodner, a four-time participant in the Central European program and dual-enrolled student at ASU and Babes-Bolyai University in Romania, says, “Dr. Orlich has become a mentor. She’ll move mountains for her students.”

She adds, “[Dr. Orlich] is one of the most energetic and passionate teachers I have seen.” Goodner, who went on the Central European program “on a whim” says she fell in love with Romania and its culture as a result of Orlich’s enthusiasm.

This enthusiasm is unmistakable when speaking with Orlich, whose voice is rife with excitement as she describes the rolling hills and vast forests of Romania’s countryside.

It is difficult to overstate Orlich’s contributions to SILC and ASU as a whole. Through her work, she has made Romanian a major presence at ASU and has impassioned her students with her knowledge. Yet she stresses that her achievements would not have been possible without support from others.

“Every single moment of this program has been the result of teamwork, administrative support, leadership and collaborative effort.”


Contact the writer at or via Twitter @CameronKelly243

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