CEU Global Teaching Fellows Gain Valuable Experience at American University of Central Asia

Maria Temmes, doctoral candidate in the Department of Gender Studies, and Elena Popa, who received her MA in philosophy from CEU and successfully defended her doctoral dissertation in philosophy at CEU in January 2016, gained valuable experience at American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, this academic year through CEU’s Global Teaching Fellowship Program (GTFP).

“It was good to gain this teaching experience as you’re finishing your PhD or have just finished,” Temmes said. “For me this was a really good opportunity.”

Both Temmes and Popa taught first-year seminars, interdisciplinary courses called “The Examined Life,” and “Human Nature,” which required the fellows to introduce students to different kinds of texts and sources, using their own background as a reference.

Maria Temmes, Elena Popa, Global Teaching Fellows, and Nick Mazik, a CEU alum, taught at American University of Central Asia this year. Elena and Nick are staying for another year. Photo by Marcos Cisneros.

“It was a good opportunity to teach in the First-Year Seminars - it was a completely new approach to topics,” Temmes said. “As a PhD candidate you have to focus, focus focus. This forced us to broaden our mindsets. It was interesting and challenging.”

Popa, who is staying on to teach at AUCA for the next academic year together with James Plumtree, the third GT Fellow (PhD in Medieval Studies received in 2014) who was attending a conference and could not be interviewed, concurred. “It was refreshing to move from something narrow to look at different topics. It reminded me of my own years as an undergrad in philosophy, looking at fundamental texts. It was good for the students to see the same readers taught from different perspectives.”

GTFP is CEU’s latest initiative working with partner universities around the world to provide teaching experience. Through GTFP, a select group of advanced CEU doctoral candidates and recent doctoral graduates have the opportunity to teach at GTFP Partner Universities for one semester or one academic year. The number of partners and available fellowships continues to increase.

Temmes said the experience also had an effect on her approach to her dissertation.

“I’ve refreshed my approach to research because I’ve been forced to go broader,” she said. “I taught a senior thesis seminar that also refreshed ways to do research.”

Fellows headed to AUCA in future have a great resource in CEU alumni working and teaching there, such as Nick Mazik, a 2012 graduate of the Department of Legal Studies who teaches in the law program there. Many AUCA students go on to graduate-level work at CEU, so Mazik was familiar with the quality of the students. He has also enjoyed exploring Kyrgyzstan and the region.

“One of the most positive things is interacting with the students,” said Mazik, who moved to Bishkek after working as a practicing lawyer in the U.S. Central Asia “is an interesting region, affordable, with nice weather.”

Mazik has taught students from different departments, and also edits the Central Asia Policy Review, a publication of the Tian Shan Policy Center at AUCA.

 AUCA, founded in 1993, is the first university in Central Asia to offer  U.S.-accredited degree programs through a partnership with Bard College, and attracts students from 25 countries. It offers a preparatory program to teach study and English skills to high school graduates, 14 undergraduate majors and four graduate programs, and recently opened a new, modern campus overlooking the mountains.

For more information about the Global Teaching Fellowship Program, administered by the Academic Cooperation and Research Support Office (ACRO), see https://acro.ceu.edu/global-teaching-fellowship-program-2.