The CIVICA Ambassadors represent their own institutions in the student and PhD communities across the network. They are the first point of contact for their peers on CIVICA activities and are involved in student projects and civic engagement initiatives. They also start and support bottom-up projects and facilitate exchanges between students and researchers in the alliance.
Jakub Sawicki, PhD researcher in the EUI Department of Law, and Abbas Sibai, Policy Leader Fellow at the Florence School of Transnational Governance (STG), share their motivations and what they look forward to achieving as the EUI's new representatives.
What does CIVICA mean to you, as you step into this new role?
Jakub: I believe that the role of a CIVICA is much more than just a university alliance; it is a commitment to uphold its values, vision, and mission. The ethos of liberal education is vital to me, equal in importance to the obligation to support one's community, in this case, that of CIVICA.
Abbas: Stepping into this new role, CIVICA embodies an avant-garde impetus, propelling European education and research to unprecedented heights from my perspective as a non-EU citizen. This alliance represents a critical bridge, interconnecting a diverse array of scholars, students, and professionals from various backgrounds across the continent.
For me, CIVICA symbolises an unwavering dedication, uniting multifaceted voices to collaboratively address challenges and nurture cohesion amidst diversity. It is a bustling centre, driving innovative ideas and cutting-edge research to confront pressing societal issues. Engaging in this dynamic collaboration, I envisage CIVICA as a gateway and a thoroughfare to broaden my viewpoints, understand and experience European culture, and actively contribute to shaping the landscape of higher education, research, and societal advancement throughout Europe and beyond.
How is European cooperation relevant to your studies?
Jakub: As the name of my field of study – comparative constitutional law – implies, constitutional scholarship relies on interconnectedness. Fieldwork, research visits, conferences, and workshops, both in Europe and outside Europe, are a necessity for us. Without exchanging ideas and experiences, everything we scholars strive to achieve would come to nought.
Abbas: As a professional with a diverse skill set encompassing social stability, policy advocacy, and project management. As a Policy Leader Fellow, my studies are centred on evaluating the state of civil society in neighbouring regions concerning their relationship with the EU. This analysis forms the basis for recommendations for sustainable reforms to engage the EU with civil society interest-based policies. My work significantly fosters collaboration between the EU and its adjacent regions, enriching my insights into EU policies and their impact on global governance within my extensive projects.
How can you and your colleagues/peers benefit from the EUI’s participation in the CIVICA alliance?
Jakub: The EUI is a peculiar institution: most students are PhD researchers; hence, our needs differ considerably from those of bachelor and master students. What we are most in need of is closer scholarly cooperation between various CIVICA members. That could entail more opportunities to exchange ideas (e.g. conferences or workshops); tools that could be helpful in finding individuals working on similar topics; the possibility of forming groups which would work on the said topics; and more online courses available for students from all the CIVICA members.
Abbas: Participation in the CIVICA alliance offers an array of benefits for both myself and my colleagues/peers. We gain access to a broader network of academic and research resources, enabling interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange. CIVICA's focus on societal challenges aligns with our academic interests, providing opportunities to work on impactful projects. The alliance also enhances international mobility, allowing us to study and research at renowned European institutions. Moreover, emphasising innovation and engagement with external stakeholders broadens our skill set and understanding of real-world issues. Ultimately, EUI involvement in CIVICA elevates the quality and depth of our academic experience.
What will be some of your priorities as a CIVICA Ambassador?
Jakub: I want to put more emphasis on projects that could improve the interconnectedness between PhD researchers from CIVICA members. My commitment to CIVICA will also be manifested in my readiness to provide testimonials as an informal voice of the alliance, echoing the sentiments, concerns, and feedback of my peers and ensuring that their voices are represented and heard. I am keen on leveraging my experience to actively propose bottom-up projects that align with the ethos of CIVICA and am equally enthusiastic about contributing to existing initiatives.
Abbas: As a CIVICA Ambassador, my priorities will include promoting the alliance's values and opportunities within the EUI and the broader academic community. I will facilitate cross-institutional collaboration, encouraging knowledge-sharing and research initiatives among CIVICA members.
Additionally, I will work to enhance student and faculty mobility programmes to foster a sense of European identity and unity. I aim to organise events, workshops, and activities that highlight CIVICA's thematic priorities and contribute to addressing societal challenges. Ultimately, my role will strengthen the bonds between CIVICA institutions and support the alliance's mission of advancing European education and research.
What kind of student-led initiatives connecting the CIVICA student and PhD communities would you like to develop/pursue in the CIVICA context?
Jakub: I would be happy to work on the Doctoral Research Groups.
Abbas: I am interested in the 'CIVICA Policy Simulation: Create a simulation or role-playing' event where students and PhD candidates can discuss policy issues and negotiate. This initiative would enhance understanding of real-world policy challenges.
The CIVICA Ambassadors serve a one-year term. Jakub and Abbas succeed Joël Christoph and Mahmoud Javadi, who served for the academic year 2022-2023.
CIVICA brings together ten leading European higher education institutions in the social sciences, humanities, business management and public policy, with a total of 72,000 students and 13,000 faculty members. Together, they build on an ever-stronger combination of teaching, research and innovation to mobilise and share knowledge as a public good and to facilitate civic responsibility in Europe and beyond.