A FLAS Fellow's Semester Abroad in Amman

Audrey Dombro, an agricultural and consumer economics student and 2019-20 FLAS fellow, reflects upon her experience studying in Jordan.

Master of Arts in European Union Studies

The European Union Center at the University of Illinois offers the only Master of Arts in European Union Studies (MAEUS) program in the Western Hemisphere. Learn more here.

Reading Contagion through Boccaccio's Decameron

Dr. Eleonora Stoppino discusses the moments of social and ethical breakdown described by Boccaccio, as well as the potential for reconstruction after the plague.

Conversations on Europe

Watch the collection of online roundtable discussions on different EU issues sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh.

COVID-19 and Liberal Democracy in Hungary

Dr. Zsuzsa Gille responds to the "Enabling Act," passed by the Hungarian Parliament on March 30, 2020.

Videos of Previous Lectures

Missed an EUC-hosted lecture? Our blog's video tag has archived previous EUC-sponsored lectures.

Friday, February 24, 2017

EUC Lecture Series: "Leadership in Hard Times: How Angela Merkel Learned to Love the European Union" with Doctor Joyce Mushaben

Angela Merkel in Hamm, courtesy of Dirk Vorderstraße
By Rachel Johannigmeier

On February 16, 2017, the European Union Center sponsored a lecture with Doctor Joyce Mushaben on Angela Merkel and the impact and evolution of her leadership style.  Doctor Mushaben is the Curators' Professor of Comparative Politics & Gender Policies at the University of Missouri Saint Louis; her most recent area of research has been on Angela Merkel, Germany's first female Chancellor.  Doctor Mushaben's lecture focused on Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership over the years within the framework of Merkel's identity as a woman, as a pastor's daughter, as a physicist, and as a citizen of East Germany.

Doctor Mushaben presented her research and results through the examination of three key events of Merkel's leadership over the years.  She preceded this exploration with information regarding the beliefs held about the differences between male and female leadership; men are often regarded as "rational" and "aggressive" in their leadership style while women are seen as "community-minded" and "nurturing."  However, these beliefs focus more on personality and behavior rather than leadership style, and it can lead to traditional, male leaders underestimating female leaders; for Angela Merkel, politicians underestimating her was incredibly useful in her growth as a leader.

Due to her experiences, Angela Merkel did not start her political career with instinctive understanding of the European Union and its institutions.  However, when in 2005 the EU faced a variety of challenges, Merkel used her skill as a fast learner to aid in these times of crisis, and she also adapted and changed her leadership style when needed.  Doctor Mushaben used the events of the EuroCrisis, the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, and the 2015 Refugee Crisis to demonstrate how Merkel developed her leadership style within the EU with her transformational leadership style.  Transformational leadership, as Doctor Mushaben explained, requires proactivity and efforts to "motivate and empower" workers.

Before finishing the lecture, Doctor Mushaben made clear the "Merkel Method" of leadership, or the ability to lead with long-term goals in mind, is one of the main reasons for Merkel's longevity in politics.  I found the lecture to be very informative, and I left the lecture with a better understanding of leadership in the European Union.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Polish-Jewish Film Series: The Innocents

Image courtesy of IMDB

By Alexandra van Doren 

The most recent screening of the Polish-Jewish Film Series, sponsored by the Program for Jewish Culture and Society and the European Union Center, was The Innocents, directed by Anne Fontaine and shown in its original French with subtitles. The film depicts the true story of a Polish convent full of nuns who have been brutalized and sexually abused by Soviet soldiers occupying Poland in 1945 in the wake of the Second World War. The scars they were left with were not only psychological; the majority of the nuns were impregnated after the attack on the convent, and will soon be delivering. While trying to hide their pregnancies from the surrounding community, one sister seeks the help of a French Red Cross nurse, Mathilde, who befriends the nuns and even eventually helps them avoid another Russian “invasion” at the convent. The challenge then becomes what to do with all of the infants after delivery? The mother superior takes matters into her own hands and claims she has sacrificed herself to protect the sisters she supervises by leaving the infants out in the bitter cold while telling the mothers the babies have been taken to be raised by willing family members. Mathilde is ordered to leave Poland, but devises a plan to protect the rest of the babies who have not yet been taken from their mothers. The convent becomes an orphanage for Polish children whose parents were killed in the war and for the newborns, who will now require no explanation for their presence at the convent.

The introduction to the film, written by Priscilla Charrat and read by Claire Baytas, denoted Fontaine’s acute use of silence throughout this film, with very few scenes punctuated by a soundtrack. I was particularly attuned to the moments of silence after hearing these comments, and one observation that I raised during the discussion after the film was the use of silence in moments that were somewhat surprising. All of the labor scenes except the last at the very end were silent. The mothers did not cry and scream, though they were clearly in pain. The silence was broken in moments of violence. For example, Mathilde is almost gang-raped by Russian soldiers on her way home from the convent one evening, and perhaps for the first time we hear a woman (her) screaming to escape her assailants. The depictions of sexual violence and the physical and psychological aftermath made this film atypical in the canon of “Holocaust films,” if it even belongs to the category at all. It certainly grapples with the horrors of the war in Poland, but from the perspective of a woman’s suffering rather than Polish or Jewish suffering. The film is stirring, provocative, and certainly one worth watching for its honest and brutal portrayal of the female experience in a war-torn country.

Alexandra van Doren is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Comparative & World Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.  She serves as an Associate Editor at the European Union Center.  

Monday, February 13, 2017

EUC Lecture Series: Language Shapes Opinion Toward Gender Equality with Margit Tavits

Image courtesy of Washington University
By Paula Jaime Agramon

Professor Tavits, a professor with the Department of Political Science at Washington University in Saint Louis, talked about her research study that planned to further study and prove how language shapes opinion toward gender equality. The motivation behind this study was that gender imbalances are still remarkably present in today’s world, and those imbalances can be seen even in highly developed societies. These imbalances are often traced to patriarchal attitudes and beliefs.

Professor Tavits argues that perceived gender equality depends on the language one speaks. She explained how people that speak gendered tongues such as Spanish (e.g. la luna ; el boligrafola luna is referring to the moon as a feminine noun ; el boligrafo refers to the pen as a masculine noun) use grammatical structures that train speakers to focus on gender; by doing this, speakers project gender features onto objects and individuals and it seems to also have an influence on younger speakers as they develop their own gender identity earlier than speakers of gender-less languages according to a recent study.

On the other hand, people that speak gender-less languages such as Estonian seem to promote equality. Ignoring gender seems to minimize the salience of gender as a relevant category.

The background behind this study argues that language affects cognition and that it sets a frame of mind for how people think. If language requires making certain distinctions between objects, then speakers are more likely to perceive these categories as real and relevant.

Three studies were conducted to prove that the hypotheses was in fact valid and that the first study was not an exception to the norm. The summary of the findings was that grammatical gender affects attitudes toward gender equality. The implications of these findings are:
  • Language may at least partially foster the persistence of gender imbalances
  • Social norms can curb language effects
  • Adopting gender-neutral terms in different languages may also affect attitudes about gender equality
Paula Jaime Agramon is a second year MAEUS student. She has studied Marketing and Management at East Tennessee State University where she also got her Masters of Business Administration.


Friday, February 10, 2017

A Visit to the European Union Delegation to Colombia: Opening Doors

From left to right: Viktoria Csonka, Rafael Rodriguez,
Raphaela Berding and Alber Lladó
By Rafael Rodriguez and Raphaela Berding

Building a network involves taking chances and seeing the opportunities that you may have at any given moment. During the Winter break, we traveled to Colombia, Rafael’s home country, and we received the opportunity to visit the EU Delegation in Colombia. After looking at their website, we contacted Albert Lladó, an intern from Spain who was working with the Delegation at the Press, Policy and Information Section. We introduced ourselves as a German student and Colombia student with the MAEUS program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Mr. Lladó kindly replied to our email, letting us know the available time for our visit. On January 5th, after a strict security protocol to access the building, we met for one hour with Mr. Lladó and Victoria Csonka, the Junior Professional in Delegation Press, Policy and Information.

Once we were invited to the meeting,  we then presented Mrs. Csonka with the questions we prepared which mostly revolved around the relations between the EU and Colombia and the presence of the EU in Latin America. We began asking about the way the EU is represented in Colombia, and how the Colombian people can recognize the EU, and also how they perceive it. It was very interesting to hear the many ways in which the EU is showing its presence in Colombia. Members from the EU Delegation, for example, travel to universities to reach out to students through guest speakers and the promotion of volunteering opportunities and internships with the EU Delegation. It was also very interesting to hear that Colombians generally perceive the EU as something positive, mainly due to all the references of the media in Colombia about all the aid provided by the Union to the country.

Being curious about job opportunities after our studies, we also asked Mrs. Csonka and Mr. Lladó about their personal backgrounds and the way that led them towards working in the EU Delegation to Colombia. Mrs. Csonka was part of the Junior Professional in Delegation Programme established by the European External Action Service and the European Commission, which gives qualified junior professionals from the member states the opportunity to be appointed to one of the EU Delegations abroad, and work there for two periods of 9 months or 1.5 years in total. Mr. Lladó was an intern from Spain, and on the day of our meeting, he had his last day of work.

After our conversation, Mrs. Csonka gave us a tour of the office, and also introduced us to more members of the EU Delegation to Colombia including Ms. Rachel Brazier, the Head of the Political, Press and Information Section of the Delegation. We felt very welcome, and everyone was very enthusiastic about our visit, and our interest in the European Union.

Our visit to the EU Delegation was a success in many ways. We got interesting insights into the EU’s work in Colombia and became aware of the impact it has in the Latin American country. This is especially important now, when Colombia is finding itself at a significant moment of the country’s history and development due to the recent peace agreement signed between the Government and the guerrillas group FARC. Having studied the EU mostly in theory during our studies, it was very refreshing for us to see the practical side. However, the most valuable detail for us was the positive feedback we received from the members of the Delegation during our visit. This visit was a first step into building our network, and making use of the opportunities that one can find.

Rafael Rodriguez is a first year MAEUS student from Colombia with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education of Foreign Language Teaching. 

Raphaela Berding is a second year MAEUS student, and she received a Bachelor’s degree in Multilingual Communications with a focus on Translation and Interpreting from the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany in 2015

Learn more about the EUC's MAEUS program, the home of the only Master of Arts in European Union Studies in the Western Hemisphere.  

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