Special Projects

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International Student Conference

For the past seven years, CEP has invited outstanding students from Eastern Europe and Eurasia to take part in its International Student Conference. Conference themes typically examine topical regional issues and incorporate perspectives from all CEP social science disciplines. CEP views this conference as an excellent opportunity for the next generation of leaders to gather, exchange ideas, and create lasting links with their colleagues from neighboring countries. It also encourages students to tolerate divergent views and opinions and to discern the merits and shortcomings of arguments and analysis.

The 7th Annual CEP International Student Conference “Ten Years After: Moving Forward…Looking Back” was held in Budapest in April. Over 130 students representing nineteen countries gathered to discuss the continuing transformation of social, political and economic life in their countries. The students were selected from among the top students in CEP classrooms throughout the region. During the five-day event, students presented their original academic work at a series of panel sessions. The conference also included plenary sessions, social and cultural events and an information fair. The information fair gave corporations and other organizations an opportunity to present their activities to the students, as well as to provide workshops on career development skills.

Joined by keynote speakers David Daly, Head of the Political and Economic Section of the Delegation of the European Commission to Hungary, and Professor Sorin Antohi, Academic Pro-Rector of the Central European University, Donna Culpepper, President of CEP, opened the proceedings in a ceremony at the historic Budapest City Hall.

Eastern Scholars Roundtable

Initiated by the CEP Belarus/Ukraine/Moldova program, the first Eastern Scholars Roundtable was held in Minsk, Belarus in 1998. The goal of the project was to promote East-East cooperation and understanding among CEP Local Faculty Fellows throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The event offered a forum to discuss issues of higher education reform and social and institutional challenges in the transition to democratic and market-oriented societies.

The first Roundtable was such a success that the event is now held annually. The second Roundtable was held in Lviv, Ukraine in May, 1999. The highlight of that event was the presentation by Dr. Stephen R. Grand, founder and long-time supporter of CEP, of an award in his name to four outstanding Local Faculty Fellows.

The Roundtable included panels devoted to curriculum reform, the implementation of new teaching strategies, and the use of up-to-date teaching materials and tools. Local Faculty Fellows from many of the countries in which CEP works shared their experiences, problems, and successes. Participants also met in small groups to discuss their discipline and research interests. The most stimulating result of the Roundtable was the recognition that having now defined many of the challenges that beset Local Faculty Fellows, the next step is to provide solutions. To this end, an additional Roundtable was arranged for December 1999, to which education policy-makers and funders were invited, with the goal of initiating a solution-oriented dialogue.

Balkan Debate Forum

The fourth Balkan Debate Forum took place in Sofia, Bulgaria, Despite the war in Kosovo, student participants from the Balkan countries arrived safely. Only two students from Belgrade, Yugoslavia could not attend. At a time of adversity, with a war so near, students, professors and guests not only from the Balkans but also from the USA, Europe and India came together to prove that constructive dialogue, compromise, and professionalism are the primary means for solving political, social, and economic problems.

The young participants from the Balkan region demonstrated an amazing ability to work in a team, to thoughtfully defend their opinions and positions, and to critically argue against their opponents’ positions while treating them with respect.

The principal topics for the debate centered on the desirability of European Union integration and the influence of western culture on Balkan culture. Other topics concerned economic issues such as the benefit of a Balkan free trade association as well as the effectiveness of international economic sanctions as a dispute resolution tool. Another provocative issue was whether Balkan national borders should be based on national homogeneity.

The European Cultural Foundation; the Sifterverband fuer die Deutsche Wissenschaft, and the European Commission Delegation to Bulgaria provided financial support for the Debate Forum. Vassilia Maragos, Economic Advisor for the European Commission Delegation to Bulgaria, was special guest.

Community-based Women’s Crisis Center

International women’s rights issues are increasingly becoming the focus of many Western human rights groups; however, Local Faculty Fellow Anna Borodina, a Gender Studies and Political Science lecturer in Tver, Russia, did not wait for outside resources to come her community. Using her CEP stipend, Borodina organized the community of Tver to create a women’s Crisis Center where women are trained in crisis intervention, management, and prevention as well as provided emergency shelter. Borodina also conducted seminars for students and faculty on Gender and the Law and helped organize workshops for women leaders.

“It was wonderful. The students were having epiphanies so often you needed sunglasses to protect yourself from all the lightbulbs over their heads. What a fabulous thing – Anna Borodina is devoting huge quantities of personal time to [her gender studies class and community outreach]. Her students are also hooked into the local women’s crisis clinic.”

Elizabeth Letcher
CEP Academic Coordinator
Russia

The Chair of the Political Science department at Tver State University was so impressed with Borodina’s initiative and efforts that he has provided additional resources to the Center, has encouraged publications, and is himself promoting a hands-on, problem-solving approach to community needs. In addition to her university job and her work at the Crisis Center, Borodina has been advising colleagues who wish to start Gender Studies courses at other universities in the region.

These are just a few of the hundreds of projects initiated by CEP and its Fellows across the region. The volume and scope of such activities has steadily increased, developing a network of active, conscientious young people in almost every sphere of civic participation.

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