A Beacon to Europe and the World: Celebrating Ten Years of Progress at South East European University

South East European University Honoris Causis Ceremony
SEEU Tetovo Campus
Tetovo, Republic of Macedonia
November 19, 2011

It is truly a great honor to be back here in Tetovo at South East European University in the Republic of Macedonia, just ten short years after the university was founded in 2001. I am proud to have been here at the beginning in the presence of Rector Abazi and the great European diplomats Max Van Der Stoel and Rolf Ekeus when SEEU was founded almost exactly ten years ago today. I am even prouder to return for the great honor that you bestow upon me. There may be no greater honor that a university can give than an invitation to join the ranks of its graduates, and I am deeply and lastingly grateful.

SEEU: The University’s Founding

Ten years ago, on November 21, 2001, the South East European University (SEEU) was formally inaugurated. Civil conflict had ended just weeks before, and the first entering cohort of 910 students began classes in the midst of an uncertain and tense situation.  

Since then, Macedonia has made remarkable efforts to create a society in which all citizens have equal access to opportunities for employment and education. Today, SEEU provides just such a secure place where more than 8,000 young Albanian, Macedonian, and students of other nationalities can develop intellectually; interact, learn about one another, and form friendships; and establish personal, political, and business partnerships that foster national unity. 

Make no mistake about it, this is a remarkable achievement: to have grown by nearly an order of magnitude in such a short time is an achievement of the highest order.

In creating this intellectual and social space for learning, SEEU stands as a true beacon to other institutions in Europe and around the world.

Part of a Great and Lasting Tradition

In these educational efforts, SEEU is part of an ancient enterprise. Although some may claim that universities are impervious to change, their very histories suggest otherwise.

In fact, the genius of great universities—institutions which have lasted longer than just about any other in human history—is their ability to adapt while preserving their fundamental missions of education and research.

We can see that genius in the ancient learned institutions of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, and the great medieval universities of Europe: Oxford, Cambridge, and the Universities of Bologna and Paris. That these institutions have remained in continuous operation for almost a millennium emphatically confirms the enduring and adaptive nature of the educational endeavor that we continue to celebrate.

SEEU: A Decade of Growth and Change 

SEEU exemplifies the values that have united universities for centuries and that unite people as well. We can see evidence of your growth and prosperity by looking at the extraordinary development that has taken place here on the Tetovo campus and the interest and excitement generated by the downtown Skopje academic center. We can see it in the strength of your new academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels and your new partnerships with European and U.S. universities. 

Perhaps most important, we can see that growth and prosperity in the many SEEU graduates who have been educated here and have returned to their homes to become leaders, teachers, and professionals, giving back to their communities the benefits of the first-rate education they have received here. 

The Nimbleness of Youth: The Strength of Age

It is important to remember that SEEU is truly an institution of the 21st century. You are the makers and shapers of your university’s traditions. You are building a culture of intellect that will provide the foundation upon which the next generation of scholars and teachers can continue to build. And you are the guardians who will ensure that the educational structures you create will best serve the faculty and students of SEEU long into the future. 

These efforts will require investments of time, energy, and resources, but the dividends on these investments are truly incalculable. How can you measure the transformation of a society as a result of higher education? The impact that graduates make as they touch the lives of others, encouraging them to improve themselves and their world? The effect that a professor will have on the lives of his or her students whose educations have provided opportunities—small and large—that will transform their lives? The engagement of citizens in understanding and participating in the democratic process?

At times of crisis and instability, there may be no more important institution than the university, and this is particularly true in this region where participatory democracy is such a recent development. James Madison, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, argued that the success of liberal republican democracy requires educated people who understand the issues about which they are making decisions. He wrote that “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”1 

It is testimony to the vision of Max Van der Stoel and the leaders who have guided and shaped this university that this institution has played a central role in promoting national prosperity and progress: leaders such as Rector Emeritus Alajdin Abazi, Rector Dikka, Vice President Foster, Professor Farrington, previous presidents of the SEEU Board, and our many other colleagues and friends at SEEU. And we must acknowledge the substantial contributions made to the founding of SEEU by the European Union and the US Agency for International Development. In a short time, you have changed the world for thousands. 

Indiana University has a longer history—nearly 200 years, and that has given us opportunities to develop as an institution, playing an integral role in the life of the state of Indiana, in our nation, and around the world.

One of the most important aspects of our global engagement is international partnership in support of institution-building efforts. Drawing on the expertise of our faculty, we have reached out around the world—to Germany, to India, to Afghanistan, and here to Macedonia—to collaborate with colleagues as they build and rebuild universities. 

Conclusion

It has been our privilege at Indiana University to be one of SEEU’s major partners in institutional development, and it has been a partnership of great and enduring benefit for both of our universities. Both of our institutions bring great strengths to this endeavor: the flexibility and energy of youth and the strength and experience rooted in traditions. Both of our institutions have gained from this exchange. 

This is a partnership not for today or tomorrow but for generations to come.

At the ceremony formally establishing this university, Mr. Van Der Stoel and OSCE official Rolf Ekeus were firmly focused on those future generations. Mr. Ekeus said “I hope that the event we are witnessing today can offer inspiration . . . towards building a better future—a future that can enrich all people of this country.”2  

We need only look around at the faculty, students, and campus of South East European University, a mere ten years later, to see the results of that inspiration and the future that you continue to build. 

Thank you again with the deepest gratitude for the honor that you are bestowing on me, and thank you for a decade of partnership.

Source Notes

  1. Madison, James. Correspondence with William T. Barry. 4 Aug. 1822. Constitution Society Website. http://www.constitution.org/jm/18220804_barry.txt.  Accessed 16 Nov. 2011. 
  2. “South East European University Opens in Tetovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.” Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe Website.  http://www.osce.org/hcnm/54010. Posted 20 Nov. 2001. Accessed 16 Nov. 2011.