CEU’s Opening Ceremony, held September 16, was dedicated to the University’s new students this academic year - 563 starting master’s programs and 94 starting doctoral programs – who come from 110 countries.
“This is a historic moment for the University. I feel the history of this place coursing through my veins. We’re a global university for a global city,” incoming President and Rector Michael Ignatieff said in his welcome address. He acknowledged the “heroic work” of CEU Board Member William Newton-Smith, “who’s most responsible for, after George Soros, the creation of CEU.”
Addressing students, Ignatieff quoted French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s motto “Que sais-je?” “The single thing I want you to ask yourselves as students is ‘What do I know? How do I know what I know?’ You can access knowledge at an inconceivable speed, but with that comes the problem of how do we distinguish between rumor and truth? How do we create a stable foundation of knowledge? You can’t do anything without knowledge that stands the test of reality. What this University has to teach you is to respect knowledge. The epistemology of open society is the careful attention to knowledge and truth. Knowing what you know will guide as you change the world.”
CEU must function as a community of learning, he added. “I learned most when I laughed. I want to hear the sound of laughter in the corridors. If that happens, I’ll know we’re learning together.”
Ana Cukovic, second-year MA student in the Nationalism Studies Program and Alumni Scholarship recipient, shared her CEU experience. “Professors at CEU teach you to never stop questioning and consciously participate in the world around you. Here, students are encouraged to uncover new ideas and join projects to foster them. Step outside of yourself and feed your curiosity,” she urged.
Azka Zia, an incoming student from Pakistan, talked about her first impressions and expectations.
“Linked with hundreds of others we’ve never met before, we’re here "reading across hundreds of languages and cultural differences in order to understand the vast range of perspectives in this world," as Judith Butler said. We share the desire to be challenged in our existing beliefs, to be encouraged to grow out of them, to become compassionate and critical thinkers who live, not simply exist," Zia said.
Professor Carsten Schneider, head of the Department of Political Science, welcomed new students on behalf of CEU faculty.
“Your time at CEU will be intensive and transformative. What makes CEU special is how students use their time here, how they develop into mature, curious, open-minded, good-spirited individuals.”
Schneider recalled how a student helped him realize how to satisfy the Protestant work ethic and enjoy his job at the same time. “I tried to convince myself I do something good for the community something beyond publications. Once a student said to me ‘you produce us’! It fills us faculty with pride.”
In conclusion, he urged students to keep bringing their ideas, “because that keeps us forever young!”
After welcoming new and returning students, CEU honored achievements in teaching and research. Provost and Pro-Rector Liviu Matei presented the CEU Award for Outstanding Research to Professor Gergely Harcos of the Department of Mathematics and its Applications for a co-authored paper that solves a fundamental problem on hyperbolic manifolds whose roots are in quantum mechanics and number theory. Associate Professor Carsten Wilke of the Department of History and the Department of Medieval Studies received the CEU Award for Outstanding Research for his research in the history of the Jews inside the social and intellectual environment of medieval and modern Europe.
Three professors were awarded the CEU Distinguished Teaching Award: Professor Lajos Bokros of the Department of Economics and the School of Public Policy (SPP), Assistant Professor Corduneanu-Huci of SPP, and Associate Professor Maciej Kisilowski of the CEU Business School. The award, initiated by the Provost and established by the CEU Senate in 2014, recognizes CEU faculty members for promoting high standards of teaching, nominated by students, alumni and faculty members.
The fifth annual European Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Social Sciences and Humanities, accompanied by the Diener Prize, was presented to Jim Murdoch, professor of public law at the University of Glasgow. The award, the first and only such pan-European honor, s an expression of CEU’s aspiration to be a new model of higher education institution, engaged in innovative and effective ways with the world around it, beyond the walls of our campus.
In his acceptance speech, Murdoch thanked his students for their “courage for risk-taking,” and urged CEU students to consider a career in teaching. “Be inspired, pick up that torch, keep trying to open society through freeing the minds of future generations. It’s the best job in the world,” he said.
The Opening Ceremony was followed by a reception in the covered courtyard of CEU’s newly renovated Nador utca 13 building.
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