This past summer, three faculty members and three students from the Department of Political Studies participated in a summer course at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest. Co-created by Department Head Dr. Zsuzsa Csergő, and her counter-part, Dr. Szabolcs Pogonyi, an associate professor and Director of the National Studies Program at CEU, this summer course exemplified the values of successful international cooperation in teaching and learning.
Over the span of five days in July, the course “Territorial Sovereignty in the Age of Migration” focused on one of the most difficult challenges faced by societies around the world. It offered a unique opportunity for participants to familiarize themselves and engage in discussions about the normative dilemmas and political struggles over territorial sovereignty, ownership over territory and issues of migration in the contemporary world. Rebecca Richards, an MA candidate in the department, was one of the three students from Queen’s who were selected to participate:
“The opportunity to take the summer course […] was one of the best things about my MA program in Political Studies. My favourite part of the course was meeting students from all over to learn about their research and perspectives on current issues in territorial sovereignty and migration. The individual seminars covered a wide range of topics in both theory and empirical research. It was a privilege to meet and discuss ideas with some of the most influential scholars in the field. I would highly recommend CEU summer courses to any graduate student as an opportunity to learn and make new connections!”
Drawing in participants from across the globe, this past summer, the student body was comprised of 21 students from over 10 countries, most of whom were graduate students but some had already completed their MA or PhD studies and were working as lecturers, researchers or NGO activists.
According to Dr. Pogonyi, “the summer course co-organized by the two institutions was intended to entrench and institutionalize the relationship of Queen’s and CEU faculty.” Dr. Csergő emphasized the “enriching qualities of such a diverse international learning space, in which every conversation between participants becomes an opportunity to learn something new—a fresh insight on shared challenges, new knowledge about another part of the world, or a better understanding of ideas that connects us.” The goal to connect institutions and people was a key driver of the course. Not only did participants attend classes, but there were “… a number of social events including visits to Budapest ‘ruin bars’, and a guided tour in the city in which [participants learned] about disputes over urban memory politics (renaming of streets and erection of new memorials and statues with clear political intentions).”
Notably, the incumbent President and Rector of CEU is Canadian author, academic and politician, Michael Ignatieff. In his welcome address, Ignatieff expressed his delight to have Queen’s faculty and students in attendance. He also spoke about the significance of academic freedom in institutions of higher learning for the sustainability of democratic government. In this regard, the CEU Summer University, which was established in 1996 to offer high-level and innovative summer courses in the social sciences and humanities, has emerged as a leading institution. The summer course co-organized by CEU and Queen’s faculty has proven to be an excellent opportunity to engage in the kind of international co-education that fosters learning experiences and relationships that have a lasting impact.