The Project for Eastern and Central Europe (PECE) was created by Professors Henry Steck (Political Science) and John Ryder (then Department of Philosophy) in 1994. PECE’s objective was then and has remained to develop relationships and affiliations and partnerships with institutions and with students and faculty colleagues in Russia (i.e., the former Soviet Union); Central and Eastern Europe; South-Eastern European (also known as “the Balkans”), the Caucasus and Central Asia. With the end of the Cold War this was a particularly important and significant time and Steck and Ryder were determined to involve our students and SUNY Cortland in this moment of history. In the years since, PECE has grown and flourished and has contributed importantly to the international vision and mission of SUNY Cortland. PECE is comprised of a network of interested faculty and staff and it welcomes participation by faculty, staff, students and community members.
In establishing PECE, Professors Steck and Ryder were especially concerned to create opportunities for Cortland students and faculty that they would not normally have. They believed that, with the end of the Cold War, American institutions of higher education had a special academic and moral responsibility to build bridges where none had existed for many generations. It was important that the SUNY Cortland community – and the wider community – develop contacts with their contemporaries in post-communist and transitional societies of the region. Since then, the Project has been a base for activities involving interaction and cooperation between SUNY Cortland and institutions in the region.
While it is now twenty years on from the major transformations of 1989-1992, the region continues to be crucial in world affairs, to continue to be a testing ground for democratic advances and to be a region with wonderful academic institutions and terrific colleagues and students. Its mission and activities are as important now as they were when PECE was founded.
PECE’s successes are many:
PECE is and has been an integral constituent member of the Clark Center for International Education. One of its founders (Dr. John Ryder) has gone on to serve as President of Khazar University in Azerbaijan. Over the years, SUNY Cortland and PECE has welcome visiting faculty from Russia, the Czech Republic, and Romania; it has hosted students groups – choral groups, artists, matriculated students – from the region.
Currently, PECE is sponsoring a joint EU-US Atlantis Mobility Project, funded as a FIPSE grant by the US Department of Education, which has brought together two American and two EU institutions in a four institution partners. This project, which enables students to study at one another’s cross-Atlantic institutions, includes a working relationship with Babe-Bolyai in Romania. Earlier it worked with the University of Niš in Serbia in curricular development in Political Science.