In recent years, when Hungary’s parliament passed a bill forcing universities to be reorganized and run by foundations, a move many saw as a means to restrict academic freedom, Eszter Eva Matyas was disheartened.
As a PhD candidate within the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy at Central European University (CEU), she had enjoyed the university’s liberal and critical approach to education and research. So when she found out about an opportunity to grow her teaching and research experience at Arizona State University through the Global Teaching Fellowship program, she jumped at the chance to reclaim her academic independence.
ASU is the only U.S. university that participates in the Global Teaching Fellowship program, which allows advanced graduate students from CEU’s internationally ranked programs to gain teaching experience working with undergraduates, as well as many other professional opportunities. The initiative is made possible through support from ASU President Michael Crow's Special Initiative Fund in conjunction with the Melikian Center's Title VI award, bestowed through the Title VI Resource Center and Foreign Language and Area Studies funding.
“The colleagues at the Melikian Center give me all the help I need to settle in,” Matyas said. “I've been here for just a month, yet I sense that I've made significant progress as a professor and researcher, more so than I ever did back home in the past years. I can't wait to see what the rest of the semester brings.”
Matyas’ appointment as the fifth CEU Global Teaching Fellow since the inception of the collaboration in 2018 is a testament to the program's success. Notably, she holds the distinction of being the first fellow to reside at ASU for an entire academic year.
During her time at ASU, Matyas is teaching a course on globalization and the environment in which she draws on her research and passion for environmental sciences, integrating case material from Arizona. In the spring, she plans to offer a course titled Democratic Erosion.
“I plan to continue the initiative launched in 2022 to make Democratic Erosion a COIL (Collaborative, Online, Interactive Learning) course, through coordination with the University of Helsinki's Aleksanteri Institute,” she explained.
Matyas’ dedication to environmental protection has been a lifelong commitment, beginning in her childhood and resonating strongly throughout her academic pursuits, which include an internship in the Hungarian Parliament, work for the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and experience at several NGOs.
She further fuels her passions as an environmental activist for Greenpeace in Hungary, something she has done since she was 18 years old, when she started out as a lead campaigner for the fossil gas campaign in Central and Eastern Europe.
“I always considered it important to be able to actively participate in the green movement in addition to my research work,” Matyas said. “Greenpeace’s work taught me how the ‘think globally, act locally’ theory works in real life. The burden on those who confront the fossil industry every day, often at the expense of their private lives, is enormous.”
Once Matyas’ teaching fellowship ends, she plans to return to Hungary to continue working in activism.
Written by Victor Johnson, digital marketing specialist, The Melikian Center
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