Sustainability
- a conscious strategy

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When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there was a rush of western aid to the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Most of that assistance was given government-to-government. Consultants flooded the region advising on a wide range of topics – jetting in to hold seminars and workshops, and returning home within a few days. The drive was to get results and to get them quickly.

The founders of Civic Education Project thought differently. Following Vaclav Havel’s dictum that “every intellectual and moral investment in the post communist world that is …based on a deep understanding of what is happening there will repay the whole world many times over,” CEP’s founders crafted a conscious long-term strategy that would enhance the capacity of higher education reform in the region.

Grass-root efforts often take years before notable results are visible. Civic Education Project Fellows made a difference from the first day of the program. This year’s Annual Report focuses on the many accomplishments to which CEP can point with pride and which demonstrate the widening legacy of CEP involvement. The theme for this report is Sustainability – the capacity of Civic Education Project’s programs to continue long after the lecturers who created them, have left. Sustainability will be the truest, long-term measure of CEP’s success.

The raw numbers show that

  • In 1991, Civic Education Project sent fifteen Visiting Faculty Fellows to teach at eight universities in the former Czechoslovakia.
  • In 1999–00, Civic Education Project supports more than 200 Fellows (Visiting Faculty Fellows and Local Faculty Fellows) at 90 universities in 19 countries.
  • There are now more than 650 CEP Alumni.
  • CEP Fellows have taught over 70,000 students since 1991.

But raw numbers do not tell enough of the story. CEP programs demonstrate a growing impact on higher educational reform efforts throughout the region. Many of these success stories will be found within the Country Reports, but the following are some overarching themes.

Sustainability through CEP programs

A New Generation. The first generation of students that CEP lecturers taught in the early ‘90s are now young adults contributing to their countries’ growth and development. Some former CEP students have already pursued graduate degrees abroad and have returned to their home universities as part of CEP’s Local Faculty Fellow Program. Other former CEP students now work in embassies, multinational companies, and government ministries. These students benefited from the opportunity to take CEP courses and participate in CEP events. They can be expected to play an increasingly influential role in their societies.

Institutional Change. There is expanding demand by universities for CEP Fellows, increasing student enrollment in CEP courses and growing popularity of CEP conferences and workshops. With help from CEP, new departments, disciplines and courses have been added at many universitites. CEP has contributed significantly to curriculum reform, major library improvements, and the spread of interest in international exchange and study abroad opportunities. Increasingly, policymakers in the US, the European Union, and throughout the region seek CEP’s expertise.

East–East Cooperation. In the early years of the transition, many of the academic ties among countries of Central and East Europe and the former Soviet Union were severed. CEP discovered that scholars missed this valuable cooperation and contact. As a result, CEP created the Local Faculty Fellows Roundtable –now in its third year – as a way to rebuild these ties in the field of higher education. Additionally, CEP’s country teams are organizing an increasing number of events and programs that bring together scholars from the region to discuss current issues in their fields, present research, and share ideas on teaching methodologies and professional development. Local Faculty Fellows and other faculty from CEP’s partner universities also enjoy valuable opportunities to meet informally at country program retreats and at conferences, debates, moot courts and other events organized for CEP students.

Local Faculty Fellow Alumni. There are now more than seventy Local Faculty Fellow Alumni who continue to lead reform efforts within their universities and communities. Some now hold influential administrative positions such as Rector, Vice Rector, Department Chair or Vice Dean. Others serve on advisory committees to national governments.EFFAlumni are also publishing a growing number of books and journal articles.

Sustainability through outreach activities

Many of the outreach activities that CEP Fellows create and promote have become institutionalized.

  • The Novicius Program in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In cooperation with the Jan Hus Foundation, CEP Fellows act as mentors to junior faculty. In 1998–99, three Visiting Lecturers and one Local Faculty Fellow mentored six Ph.D. students.
  • The Women’s Crisis Center in Tver, Russia. Created by a CEP Local Faculty Fellow, it now attracts support from both local and federal governments.
  • The Teaching Development Program in Romania. This program allows young faculty to work closely with CEP Fellows on teaching and course development and includes them and their students in a number of CEP events.
  • The Annual Balkan Debate Forum and Regional Student Conferences. Now in its fourth year, the Balkan Debate Forum brings together students, professors and guests not only from countries where CEP is active, but also non-CEP countries in the Balkans. Similarly, the Caucasus Student Conference brings together participants from Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, and the Central Asia Student Conference provides a similar forum for students from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Despite war, ethnic tension and long histories of enmity in these regions, students learn that interaction and discussion can foster understanding and help settle differences. Students leave with a much different understanding of their peers from other countries, religions, and viewpoints, telling of lasting friendships and research partnerships that they credit to these events.

CEP has a number of strengths that enable its Fellows and staff to fulfill its ideals.

Strengths

  • Focus on Teaching and Students. CEP stresses individual contact between Fellows and their students. CEP Fellows encourage students to ask questions in class and give them opportunities to express their own ideas. They provide office hours in which to discuss and clarify issues and teach students how to research and write an original paper. CEP Fellows create student-centered events, mentor top students interested in continuing their education abroad, and provide opportunities for their enrichment.
  • Network. CEP’s network of partnerships with regional universities stretches from the Czech Republic to Siberia and from the Baltics to Uzbekistan – through nineteen countries and across twelve time zones. Whereas many NGOs concentrate their efforts in the capitals, CEP develops relationships throughout the provinces.
  • Commitment. CEP Visiting Faculty Fellows commit to a full academic year at their host institutions. Nevertheless, an astonishing 40% of CEP’s first-year Visiting Faculty Fellows renew their teaching commitment to CEP for a second or even third year. Student enthusiasm and a genuine sense of accomplishment motivate the Fellows despite sometimes challenging living and working conditions.
  • Organizational Culture – Communication, Flexibility and Responsiveness. CEP maintains small offices in New Haven, Connecticut, and Budapest, Hungary, where the primary functions of Finance, Recruiting, Publications, Development and Program Management are based. In addition, CEP has eleven regional offices staffed predominantly by country nationals who have a deep understanding of regional educational systems. Among their many responsibilities, these Country Directors negotiate with universities and government ministries, support their network of Fellows, plan conferences, retreats and workshops, produce publications, and raise funding for in-country projects. In the nineteen countries in which CEP operates, social, political and economic uncertainty is a daily fact of life. CEP staff must be able to respond quickly and flexibly to unexpected demands and new opportunities. Their continued ability to manage a growing program and maintain high academic standards, despite being stretched across many time zones, is a tribute to their dedication and resourcefulness.
  • Legacy. CEP’s commitment at the grass-roots level to students, faculty colleagues, university departments and the communities served by the universities, is making a difference that is showing up in other parts of society. The skills they learn from CEP Fellows enable students to build bridges between their own cultures and the outside world. It is this “international vocabulary” that encourages the attitudes and values crucial to a pluralist democracy.

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