Facilitator and connector Monica Jitareanu discusses CIVICA as a distinct alliance
Monica Jitareanu (CEU) discusses the evolution of CIVICA activities, the role of CEU involvement and the next goals of the alliance.
Monica Jitareanu, Central European University’s (CEU) Global Partnerships Officer and CIVICA Manager, serves a key staff role in supporting the activities of the alliance. Having completed her PhD in Philosophy in 2010 at CEU, she joined the university’s Academic Cooperation and Research Support Office, where she initiates and maintains academic partnerships. In addition to her work with CIVICA, she manages the CEU Global Teaching Fellowship Program and had previously worked on the Bard-CEU Study Abroad Program.
Jitareanu has been involved with CIVICA since the initiation of the alliance and serves as a key connector and facilitator for CEU’s involvement across multiple work packages. We spoke with her regarding her role and the evolution of activities designed to date.
As CEU’s Global Partnerships Officer and CIVICA Manager, how do you support the work with the alliance?
I work as a connector between all the partners and our communities, and everybody involved in the work packages of CIVICA. It has been an interesting journey. I was involved in drafting the CEU’s part in the proposal for the European University Alliances and in 2019 after the funding was approved, we met in Paris to begin. On one hand people were cautious because, in general, alliances and partnerships can be challenging to organise and maintain, and this one had many members, but I really saw the goodwill and hard work of the wonderful and thoughtful colleagues there.
I work frequently with the other CIVICA Managers – at this point it feels like being among friends. I'm someone who likes to have a holistic approach so this role, which requires me to observe and interact through many meetings, helps me see the big picture, contribute to supporting the activities and connect individuals.
Overall, the work is very diverse because we're building this common campus, working on education, research and civic engagement activities, and most aspects involve all the partners. I feel like I’m in the right place as a hybrid professional - I have a PhD in Philosophy but chose to work as a full-time administrator. I know the academic landscape and conditions for researchers, and I use that knowledge and expertise in what I'm doing with CIVICA.
How is CIVICA distinct from the other partnerships under your purview?
CIVICA is totally special. With most other networks the focus is on a few target activities. By contrast, CIVICA is a comprehensive, all-encompassing type of alliance. One aspect is our ambition toward building a common campus. We aim to have, at some point, partners integrated in a way that perhaps a student can decide if they want, for example, to study a semester at one university, write their dissertation with a professor from another and participate in a workshop at a third CIVICA site. Ideally, faculty should be able to move around and teach within the network for teaching credits. It’s a totally different level of engagement and that's why I think it's tremendously important that we develop very close relationships, which are essential for something like this to happen.
What would you like to point out about CEU’s participation as the lead on the Research and Civic Engagement work packages for CIVICA?
Work Package 6 (WP6), which focuses on research, is probably the most challenging because during this phase we are doing conceptual and design work to create the environment for CIVICA Research. It can be difficult to engage high-profile researchers with limited time to deploy their efforts on things that are exploratory. That said, we have momentum and the Permanent Design Team – the engine of the work package - led by CEU's Carsten Schneider, launched the call for CIVICA Research projects, which have been selected. In our upcoming gathering we’ll be discussing how the successful projects can begin their work.
With Work Package 7 (WP7) focused on civic engagement, we’re very lucky to have CEU’s Flora Laszlo onboard because she's the Director of Community Engagement and has a lot of experience and expertise on how to approach this type of work.
What do you anticipate as the evolution of CIVICA activities going into the next academic year?
We are already thinking about the next phase and plan to apply for extension of CIVICA’s work. In our meetings, we are developing a strategy that will emerge from our collective discussions regarding what we want to achieve - for example, to continue developing all of the current activities or through evaluation decide to concentrate on the most successful aspects that could become bigger and better connectors. We’re also considering what other types of activities we might want to incorporate. Personally, I really hope that the excellent relationships we've developed will grow and involve more people, ideas and deepen community participation.
Edited version of the interview conducted on 18 June 2021 by Julie Potter (CEU)