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Interview with the Executive director of SUN
October 29, 2021

Eva Gedeon, Director of the CEU-OSUN Summer University, recently sat down for an online interview with Bonnie Goad, OSUN Director of Communications, to discuss the program’s history, vision, and what’s in store for the future. 

OSUN Summer University is a great opportunity to work as a team on developing and piloting new curricula, bringing together students, scholars, practitioners and community advocates in an intensive collaborative learning experience. OSUN provides funding for SUN courses, covering the costs of development and delivery of the courses, tuition waivers, stipends and travel support for OSUN affiliates. 
Learn more about submitting a proposal for the 2022 OSUN-CEU Summer University. The OSUN-CEU Summer University 2022 course proposals deadline has been extended to September 1, 2021.
BG: Let me start by asking you, because you've been doing this for a long time, how did the CEU Summer University get started?

EG: I've been with the program since 1997 so it's quite a while. It was started just a year before I came to CEU and the reason it started was really to enhance CEU’s mission through this outreach program. The original idea was to generate more knowledge and research projects.  The program originally targeted the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe and then the effort was expanded to enhance access to existing knowledge and scholarship, which many of these countries had been deprived of. There was even a book donation program because people were starving for knowledge and books.

The original idea was to meet the existing scholarship, which was largely one-directional from Western to Eastern scholarship. As time went on, it became more of an experimental ground for research and cooperation and the outreach was more global, where people applied from every corner of the globe. It’s the same today.

BG: Many universities have summer programs. What makes this one different?

EG: It’s really an extension of CEU into the larger community. We want to give other people a taste of CEU. The program also helps faculty to connect and work more intensively on a project during the summer school or to forge new relationships. 

What makes it different is exactly this team element, it’s not one faculty offering a course. It's a real team approach. So there can be a group of five or six or seven people working and teaching together. That’s rather different from the model of most summer schools. Very often, because it's a team, there's a chance to be multidisciplinary so it's not just one narrow discipline but a multidisciplinary union with a 360-degree look around the world and within those fields. And that's exciting.

CEU SUN is typically one or two weeks of intense work so, as one student said, “it’s an incubator of ideas.” It can be very stimulating because you hear ideas and perspectives from a lot of people, which sparks new ideas and deep critical thinking.  

BG: This past year, everyone has had to make a transition to online teaching due to COVID. How has that impacted the experience for the faculty and for the students? 

EG: That’s where OSUN has really been instrumental. If it hadn't been for OSUN, I don't think we would have been successful in making this transition. OSUN helped faculty to see that they could do this and also provided the extra funding for the preparation. It was a big jump in the first year but by the next summer the whole world had learned what Zoom is. Everyone is so much more proficient but the support gave us the resources to train faculty and to realize that despite the loss of being together in the same physical space, we can do even more than we realized. 

No doubt, that act of being together, of continuing a conversation at a bar or over dinner, has always been an important part of the SUN learning experience. But we can see that so many people who would not have been able to come to Budapest because of the cost have been able to participate online. So that is something we have to consider for the future. We had a very successful online mediation course this summer, for example, where there were deep emotional ties that developed during the breakout rooms. They did a lot of simulation exercises with rich discussions and developed strong bonds. 

BG: You've had a big transition during this time but also experiences that sound like they were incredibly powerful and really speak to the original mission of outreach in a way that you had never envisioned. So what are you hoping for in 2022?

EG: Well, we are hoping to become more aligned within the OSUN network and with other projects. Perhaps a SUN course can be an exploratory phase of a larger project or as a pilot to test an idea and see how it works before developing it into a larger project. A SUN course could also be the dissemination phase of a larger project.

BG: That sounds like a great opportunity. So if I'm a faculty member at an OSUN partner and I have an idea I'm incubating, what should I be thinking about if I want to submit a proposal for a course next summer?

EG: We’re really happy to help nurture an idea, discuss it together, and identify possible partners and, where appropriate, a CEU faculty member to contribute to the team. Faculty members can contact me directly. 

BG: Terrific. Anything else you wanted to share?

EG: So many of our students have talked about how they are not only learning from the faculty but from each other. That's very exciting. We have these very mature students and professionals in the same group. What they learn from each other is unique because the students are very diverse in terms of geography, age, experience, and disciplinary background. And there's a lot of exchange going on. They tend to hang out after classes – including the faculty. No one flies in, teaches the course, and flies out. They are here for a week or two and spend almost 10 hours a day together in each other's company. The learning that takes place outside the classroom is very powerful.