Growing up, Emilia Zankina’s father traveled the world as a choreographer, which inspired her passion for traveling and love of languages, she said.
Zankina learned to be fluent in several languages, including English, Bosnian, Croatian and Italian. She encourages those around her to travel and expand their knowledge of other cultures, she said.
“I firmly believe that international education, it’s a life changing experience,” she said. “You know when you leave your own country, you can look even at your own self and your friends and culture through a different lens … and, I think, develop a fuller understanding of yourself.”
Zankina, the provost at American University in Bulgaria, will begin her role as dean of Temple University Rome on May 1, she said. The university announced her appointment on Jan. 14.
She will succeed Fay Trachtenberg, Temple Rome’s acting dean, who took over after Hilary Link, the school’s previous dean, left to become the first woman president of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania last year.
Link has been in contact with Zankina for the past month and believes she will do an amazing job as dean, she said.
“I have really enjoyed getting to talk to her and understanding her, I think, very intuitive sense of what both the challenges and the opportunities are,” Link said.
Temple Rome offers internships and courses in seven academic areas, according to the Office of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses. Since its establishment in 1966, more than 13,000 students have participated in Temple Rome’s programs.
Zankina has served as provost of American University in Bulgaria, an American liberal arts institution with approximately 900 students, since 2016, according to a university release.
She previously worked as the associate director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
A former professional dancer and one-time student at a performing arts high school, Zankina hopes to build a legacy at Temple Rome by introducing more programs about arts and Italian culture, she said.
Zankina would like to see students take more classes about Italy, she said.
“This could be in business, it could be in literature, it could be in political science, so that when students get there, they have the possibility to really develop an understanding and appreciation for a different culture in a different country,” she added.
As a teenager, Zankina lived in Italy and studied abroad at the University of Pittsburgh, she said. She credits her career path to a class on revolutions in Eastern Europe that she took in her senior year with Ron Linden, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pittsburgh.
As a result, Zankina switched her major to political science and went on to earn her Ph.D. in international affairs with a focus on political science and public policy at the University of Pittsburgh, she said.
Zankina absorbed everything Linden taught in the course and was willing to share her experiences with others in the class, Linden said.
Linden was also a part of Zankina’s dissertation committee, where the two became close, he said.
“She’s passionate and committed about undergraduate education,” Linden said.