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Kosovo president receives leadership award at ASU

February 25, 2009

Fatmir Sejdiu spent semester on campus in 2003

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu is the first recipient of the Arizona State University Distinguished Global Leadership Award. He was recognized Feb. 23 in a ceremony at ASU, which was attended by more than 250 members of the Albanian-American community in Arizona.

Sejdiu was on the ASU campus just days after the first anniversary of Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence (Feb. 17) and just days before he was scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“It was an important year for proving ourselves as a place of modern democracy, a place and homeland for all of its citizens irrespective of ethnicity or belief,” Sejdiu said, “and a place that pays special attention and respect for human rights and liberties, and in that vein, especially the rights of minorities.”

In his remarks, the visiting leader expressed his “utmost appreciation” for the American people.

“Kosova remains eternally thankful to the United States of America and the American people for the powerful support that they gave to the people of Kosova in its efforts for freedom and independence and its economic rebirth,” he said.

Sejdiu received the leadership award from ASU’s Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement for his work in enhancing international and intercultural understanding through his professional endeavors.

“President Sejdiu has the distinction of leading this new nation on its exciting path,” said Anthony “Bud” Rock, ASU vice president for global engagement. “He brings the experience of government, the wisdom, the objectivity, and the compassion associated with a career in the justice arena and a strong association with the generation that will most assuredly implement the visions he sets forth – the students with whom he continues to be engaged.”

Sejdiu was a professor of law at the University of Prishtina when he spent a semester in residence at ASU in 2003. He was among 17 participants from Kosovo who were part of an educational partnership administered by ASU’s Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies through a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

The visiting scholars attended classes in public administration and business management and met with scholars from across the university, and specifically from the School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Programs and the W.P. Carey School of Business to develop courses and teaching methods to bolster education programs at the University of Prishtina.

“If anyone ever wonders what we’re doing at ASU, this is one of the things we’re doing,” said Alan Artibise, executive dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, home of the Melikian Center.

Artibise explained that “one of our tenets [at ASU] is what we call ‘impact;’ that we as faculty and staff work for this university and that our work has to be relevant to the community in which we find ourselves.”

He cited the Melikian Center and its work “with communities both here and abroad to bring people together in these perilous times.”

Professor Stephen Batalden, director of the Melikian Center, framed the president’s visit as a “festive homecoming celebration honoring one of ASU’s own.”

Sejdiu returned the compliment by reminiscing about his “many discussions with colleagues” at ASU and told a story from March 2003, when he, Batalden and another professor, were lunching at Restaurant Mexico in downtown Tempe “that now seems like a prophecy.”

“Knowing that I was politically involved at the time and in the resistance processes earlier on, Professor Batalden asked me: ‘How many years will it take for Kosova to become independent?’

“Since the negotiations for the future of Kosova had not begun yet, I gave a vague answer, telling him that it would happen in a few years,” Sejdiu said. “Professor Batalden lifted his arm, opened up his palm and stated that it would likely take five full years.

“Well, my friends, he missed the date by one month.”

Sejdiu also spoke of “the investment in knowledge and education” as a priority in Kosovo. He expressed his appreciation for the role that ASU has played in supporting the University of Prishtina, its academic staff, and the students from Kosovo who attend ASU.

Also speaking at the event were Arben Lasku, president of the Albanian-American Cultural Center, which co-sponsored the event with ASU’s Melikian Center. Introducing Sejdiu was Vjollca Berisha, a member of the Kosovar-American community.

ASU’s Melikian Center has pioneered elementary and advanced Albanian language instruction in its Critical Languages Institute. The center is involved in several federally funded projects in Kosovo. Read more at