To mark the 20th anniversary of its founding, the Catholic University in Ružomberok, Slovakia has recognized the work, support, and friendship of A. James McAdams, William M. Scholl Professor of International Affairs and former director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. McAdams, who led the Nanovic Institute from 2002 to 2018, was presented with the University’s Gold Medal. Nanovic Senior Associate Director Monica Caro also received a Commemorative Medal. The medals were to be presented at an in-person ceremony in Ružomberok, planned as part of a September 2020 conference at which McAdams would deliver the keynote address. As the event had to be canceled in this unusual year, the medals arrived in South Bend recently.
The Catholic University in Ružomberok is a member of the Catholic Universities Partnership (CUP), a project instigated in 2003 by the Nanovic Institute to support the elevation and development of Catholic higher education and civil society in post-Soviet Europe. After 18 years of collaboration in programming, infrastructure, and research, the CUP includes six major Central and Eastern European universities as part of its core group, in addition to other participating institutions in Western Europe. In 2006, McAdams, along with Robert and Elizabeth Nanovic, visited Ružomberok during a tour of Slovakia and initiated the Catholic University’s involvement as a partner.
Participation in the CUP has been integral to the Ružomberok university’s success in its first two decades. Jaroslav Demko, university rector, explained that McAdams’ medal is “an expression of our utmost gratitude for [his] contribution in developing and supporting the Catholic University in Ružomberok,” and the award recognizes the role McAdams played in ensuring “long-term cooperation and international support for the Catholic University of Ružomberok by the University of Notre Dame.” Demko said that his university continues to derive many blessings from the CUP and is particularly thankful that a number of research scholars and members of Catholic University leadership have visited the Nanovic Institute over the years.
In a letter accompanying the award, the Rector also expressed gratitude to Caro for her invaluable work initiating and managing the Catholic Leadership Institute, an annual week-long program created by Caro and the Nanovic Institute, in partnership with the Mendoza College of Business, to support academic administrators at Ružomberok and the other partner universities. To date, the leadership course has welcomed 11 participants from Slovakia, with a further three expected to attend the summer 2021 session. Caro shared, “being involved with this partnership is inspiring and renews my own work. My first visit to one of the partners was to Ružomberok in 2017 and I remain so grateful for the continuing collaborations.”
The CUP has also facilitated academic reciprocity between the partner institutions and Notre Dame. By the end of summer 2021, 20 visiting scholars from Slovakia will have spent at least one semester in South Bend, which is just one portion of over 100 visitors from the CUP at large. In 2019, the partnership provided critical support to Steven Lemke during his successful application for a U.S. Fulbright Open Study/Research Fellowship to Slovakia. Lemke, a 2019 Master of Fine Arts graduate in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design at the University of Notre Dame explored the relationship between communal architecture and identity, through a partnership with the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava.
Marek Babic, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters at the University of Ružomberok, expressed the value of CUP membership for his institution as “an opportunity to develop the academic and leadership competencies of our faculty and university staff.” Babic, an associate professor of ancient history who came to Nanovic as a visiting scholar in 2010-11, said “it is great that we can establish and strengthen friendly relations not only within Catholic universities in Central and Eastern Europe, but also with our leading university, Notre Dame.”
Clemens Sedmak, interim director of the Nanovic Institute, shared “it is gratifying to see Jim McAdams and Monica Caro recognized for their work with Ružomberok, which illustrates the value and significance of the partnerships they have both worked creatively to support. In fact, it would not exist without Jim and it could not easily be sustained without Monica. The partnership teaches us a lot about intellectual friendships in academic life and remains a strategic priority for the Institute as we develop collaborative research with our partner universities.”