Building on CEU's longstanding reputation for enhancing higher education, research, and professional opportunities for Roma, CEU's Roma Access Programs (RAP) was transformed into the Romani Studies Program (RSP) in August 2017. RSP as a new academic unit at CEU encompasses the Roma Graduate Preparation Program (RGPP) and the Roma in European Societies (RES) initiative. The Romani Studies Program celebrated its launch in October 2017. On October 4, 2018, RSP hosted a Romani Networking Event to commemorate its one-year anniversary by giving an opportunity to current RGPP students to meet with alumni, teachers, tutors, donors, partners and friends. The event proved to be a successful venue for networking and experience sharing.
RSP Senior Program Manager, Erika Solyom hosted the event. She summarized the RSP highlights of the previous year, spoke about the expanded programs and various projects as well as introduced the new team members: Jelica Nikolic, Maria Nyerges and Kata Erdos. After her introductory notes, Director of Strategic Partnerships at CEU Jason Weedon in his welcoming notes stressed that it is very important for CEU to have the Romani Studies Program and to support young Roma in their academic and professional growth and achievements. He emphasized that we all need to continue our work in joint efforts to combat challenges in education.
“Our role is to produce knowledge and to provide equal chances, supporting young Roma who want to pursue higher education,” Weedon said, adding that CEU is rich in its diversity, for which academic freedom is crucial.
“On behalf of the Romani Studies Program, I am very happy to see you all here, knowing how much each of you and all together contributed to the mission of CEU and RSP,” said Iulius Rostas, assistant professor at CEU and chair of RSP. He also added that the vision of the program is to open Romani Studies departments at other universities all over Europe, to exchange knowledge and expertise in this field on an academic level, and to make it available to everyone. Professor Rostas closed his welcome speech by sharing the slogan written on the T-shirt of his daughter, saying “Don’t give up your dreams,” reminding the young members of the audience how important and achievable dreams are if we all work hard towards them.
Additional opening remarks were delivered by RGPP Academic Program Director, Professor Angela Kocze. She was quoting from the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou to emphasize that despite all the struggles and difficulties we might face, the hope and promise for success is always there:
“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.”
In her final remark, Professor Kocze noted that RSP is very proud to announce that former RGPP and current MA student Fridon Lala was recently elected to be President of the Student Union Board of CEU for the AY 2018-19.
As RSP celebrated its first birthday as a new unit, a current RGPP student from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Adnan Schubert, shared his thoughts and impressions related to CEU, RSP, RGPP and the Roma community in the region. “Being an RGPP student is at the same time a great privilege and an obligation for all students. We were given an opportunity to proceed with our education in one of the best academic institutions in Europe. We are building our capacity in order to pursue our future careers and to earn respect as equal members of the society. It is a rare occasion for Roma people to feel privileged, unlike being segregated and discriminated worldwide. It is also our task and obligation as students to be the best versions of ourselves, to expand our knowledge and become the best role models for future generations of the RGPP program. All of us owe our gratitude to the academic community of CEU: to our professors, tutors and sponsors for giving us the chance of our lifetime, to become the equal members of this prestigious institution as well as to demonstrate our talents, skills and potentials to the fullest,” said Adnan.
As a final remark, Adnan also reflected shortly on one of the greatest speeches in history: “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King. He also stressed, however, that reality is even more important, noting that “I see a great team of successful Roma students on their MA or PhD studies, a network of emerging professionals, academic workers, policy-makers and community members who will bring a better future, not only for Roma but for all of us.” At the end of his speech, Erika Solyom asked him to blow out the candle on RSP’s birthday cake before the reception began.
After the official closing remarks, the audience enjoyed a classical Ravel solo piece on the violin by Romani musician Nandor Burai.
For further information on the Romani Studies Program, visit www.romanistudies.ceu.edu