The Roma students graciously greeted the Notre Dame delegation with traditional song and dance. After that warm welcome, the Notre Dame students were shepherded around the school to witness the instruction and character inside a Catholic classroom in Slovakia, participating in the Roma students’ lessons, coloring pictures during arts and crafts time, and playing with their new companions in the schoolyard playground.
Roma communities often endure multiple forms of discrimination. The arrival, integration, and participation of the Notre Dame students with the local Roma community was an important witness and connection to this vulnerable population. It is certain that the moments shared with the Roma students left a lasting impression on the Notre Dame delegation.
Following their visit to the Roma school, the Notre Dame students turned to another educational opportunity. They presented their academic and internship experiences to an audience of international education professionals at the fifth annual School Teachers’ and Educators’ Conference, “Education: From Rote Learning to Genuine Wisdom.”
The conference, aimed at international educators from Central Europe, was co-organized by Simon Uttley, Ph.D., who teaches the London Global Gateway’s co-curricular course, “Catholic Education and the Common Good.” Uttley founded this conference with Martin Smilnak, a colleague in Bardejov and headteacher of Bardejov’s highly ranked bilingual secondary school, Gymnázium sv. Jána Bosca.
At the beginning of the term, Uttley told the students about the conference and assigned them the task of developing a presentation: “Education from a Student’s Perspective.” In their presentation, the Notre Dame students did an outstanding job narrating their own experiences of education and what made it excellent. The students shared personal stories that provided models and inspiration to those educators attending the conference, the deep impressions they made all the more extraordinary given the different cultural backgrounds comprising the international audience.
One by one, the students personalized the transformative Notre Dame student experience—a holistic liberal arts education augmented by internships and service-learning, and rich in extracurricular activities, spiritual life, and athletics. Together, all thirteen students shared their insights, united by Blessed Basil Moreau's conviction that “the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steven Lemke, a 2019 MFA graduate from the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History & Design, received a 2019-2020 U.S. Fulbright Open Study/Research Fellowship to Slovakia to explore the relationship between communal architecture and identity, which Lemke states “would not have been possible without the critical support of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and its Catholic Universities Partnership during the rigorous application process.” Through a partnership with the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, Lemke has been working in the studio community and incorporating digital fabrication design into his work and conducts a series of visiting artist workshops with the art education program at the Catholic University in Ruzomberok. While a graduate student, Lemke also received a travel and research grant from the Nanovic Institute’s Snider Family Endowment for Excellence in European Studies.
Created with images by Martin Katler - "untitled image" • Mohammed Thoufik - "St.Elisabeth Cathedral,Kosice,Slovakia"