CEU Announces the 2023 Excellence Awards

Central European University (CEU) prides itself on having some of the most dedicated faculty and administrative staff. This year’s recipients of the CEU Excellence Awards exemplify such commitment through their contributions within and beyond CEU. Each will be formally honored during the 2023 CEU Commencement Ceremony and receive 2,500 euro. 

The CEU Teaching Excellence Award recognizes CEU faculty members for promoting high standards of teaching, linked with the mission and institutional ambitions of CEU. Established by the CEU Senate in 2014, this award not only underscores CEU's long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching, but also provides an opportunity for faculty, students and alumni to acknowledge teaching at CEU that has had a special impact on their academic work and lives.

Xymena Kurowska has been awarded the 2023 Teaching Excellence Award. A researcher noted for the breadth and depth of her work in the field of international relations theory and interpretative analysis, Kurowska has an equal reputation for the generosity of feedback and the support she provides to emerging scholars. Her students and colleagues consistently highlight the way in which she combines analytical precision with attentiveness to student needs. This combination makes her mentorship, research supervision and insight highly sought after.

In the words of one student, “At the same time that she has intellectually challenged me, she has also been an exceptional source of inspiration. Her drive for academic excellence, ethical as well as analytical rigor continues to impress me and makes her one of my absolute role models for my own research.” Kurowska is an Associate Professor at the CEU Department of International Relations and CEU Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy, and International Relations.

The CEU Research Excellence Award recognizes excellence in research by CEU academic staff. It is intended to acknowledge and showcase research output of outstanding quality produced in the year leading up the grant, which has had a significant international impact. In 2023, Zsolt Enyedi and Adam Szeidl have been awarded Research Excellence Awards.

Zsolt Enyedi’s book "Party System Closure: Party Alliances, Government Alternatives, and Democracy in Europe" (co-authored with Fernando Casal Bertoa) was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. It won the best book award of the Spanish Association of Political and Administrative Sciences and was the runner-up for the Stein Rokkan Prize, the best book award of the European Consortium for Political Research. Under Enyedi's leadership, CEU won a Horizon Europe grant for the project “Neo-authoritarianisms in Europe and the liberal democratic response” in 2022. Enyedi successfully supervised fourteen PhD students and is part of numerous PhD supervisory panels. He published more than one hundred articles as well as several books, runs a podcast series and contributes to the successful operation of the Political Science Department and CEU’s Democracy Institute.

Adam Szeidl’s contribution to the understanding of political economy is particularly timely. His latest work on “The Political Economy of Alternative Realities” (with Ferenc Szucs) shows how populist politicians can systematically persuade voters by promoting alternative realities and discrediting intellectual elites. In 2021 he published an influential paper titled “Media Capture through Favor Exchange” (with Ferenc Szucs) in one of the top journals in economics, Econometrica, showing how targeted government advertising can be used to influence media content. Szeidl has recently served as Joint Managing Editor of the Review of Economic Studies, one of the leading journals in economics, and in the past, has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant and an ERC Consolidator Grant.

The CEU Staff Excellence Award was established in 2021 to recognize up to two CEU staff annually. Recipients distinguish themselves by advocating for and implementing service and process improvements, acting as drivers of a major change impacting CEU and/or demonstrating excellence in internal service or process delivery. In 2023, Lisa Auzinger and Stephanie Heidinger have been awarded Staff Excellence Awards.

Lisa Auzinger, CEU’s Student Wellbeing Coordinator, has proven to be an exceptional leader and demonstrated tremendous adaptability in supporting PhDs students navigate the Austrian public health and tax systems. Students appreciate her approachability and trust her with complex and demanding matters. Auzinger tries her very best to institutionalize knowledge for current and future generations of students in a way that serves their self-described needs. In addition to her everyday duties, she’s a member of the CEU Gender Equality Hub, where she strives to improve the student-parent experience and support students with families. Most recently, Auzinger contributed to updating the Student Pregnancy and Parent Policy. Last but not least, she is described as an exemplary colleague: unfailingly reliable, possessing a strong sense of justice, exemplifying patience and a capable problem solver. Auzinger’s kindness, light-heartedness, and humility have also been praised by colleagues.

Stephanie Heidinger has been involved in translating strategic priorities into day-to-day processes and procedures aligned with CEU’s institution-wide goal of operational excellence and long-term financial sustainability since taking up the role of Executive Assistant to the COO. These responsibilities include but are not limited to reimagining cross-functional workflows between and within administrative units as well as academic departments. A significant part of that focuses on improving intra- and inter-team communications. Heidinger is behind the scenes of the COO's and Pro-Rector for Research and Faculty’s all-employee forum, including the monthly recaps. The level of ownership and accountability to deliver on those commitments has been cited as exemplary. This applies not only to how they approach the work they do but also to how they treat their colleagues. They are known to go the extra mile, and their contributions have shown that small acts can – and do – have a big impact.

The CEU Community Service Excellence Award was initiated in 2021 to recognize resident academic and non-academic staff for outstanding community service above and beyond the level that can be expected in their role, in keeping with the values of CEU. This award is granted to colleagues who have significantly impacted the CEU community by externally promoting the work of the university or making an exceptional contribution to the life of university through committee work. Whatever their service, the award winners have made a difference to many within our community and to CEU itself. In 2023, Balazs Trencsenyi and Dora Sarosi have been awarded Community Service Excellence Awards.

Balazs Trencsenyi is a Professor in the Department of History and the Director of the History in the Public Sphere Erasmus Mundus MA program. He is also one of the main organizers of the Invisible University for Ukraine (IUFU), a certificate program (offering ECTS credits) for junior and senior undergraduate (BA) and graduate (MA and PhD) students from Ukraine, whether residing in Ukraine or in refuge, whose studies have been affected by the war.

In receiving this recognition, Trencsenyi underscores that IUFU is a shared effort and he accepts the award on behalf of a team, one that includes Ostap Sereda, Renata Uitz, Vlado Petrovic, Laszlo Kontler, Kinga Pall, Sasha Shtokvych, and many more colleagues from CEU - both in Budapest and Vienna - and beyond.

Trencsenyi has been described as “The intellectual within civil society…” who remains committed to addressing the most pressing issues of our time and has the leadership capacity as well as the organizational might to do so in an impactful and sustainable way. He is an outstanding resource mobilizer and has been excellent in public outreach efforts, especially for IUFU. Everything he’s done and continues to do for IUFU sets the bar in bringing together academic excellence, purpose-driven social service and social justice and open society principles. His personal investment into IUFU deserves to be praised and it’s due to that that the initiative continues to grow.

Dora Sarosi is CEU’s Director of Facilities, and has largely underpinned the university’s ability to maintain two locations successfully. In Budapest, she’s been pivotal in utilizing and leveraging the buildings to serve both the CEU and local community, from deploying the Kerepesi dormitory housing to accomodate alumni fleeing the war in Ukraine, to the newer Nador facilities serving as a refuge for FreeSZFE. Sarosi’s resilience has been demonstrated through leading the Emergency Response Team which guided CEU through the challenges of the pandemic, and facilitating important aspects of the university’s move to Vienna. She’s proven she can swiftly navigate under pressure with the utmost care and consideration for others. For her, the CEU community’s well-being is always in focus. In everything she does, Sarosi is dedicated to making CEU a safer and more secure place to be.