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Pictured (from L to R): Professor Milada Anna Vachudova (Global Studies & Political Science); Faith Goldsmith (MA, Global Studies, 2020); Hannah Day (BA, Global Studies, 2020); Martin Naunov (PhD, Political Science, 2025); Courtney Blackington (PhD, Political Science, 2024); Professor Carmen Huerta Bapat (Global Studies); and Nicholous Rucker (BA, Global Studies & Political Science, 2020)

Intellectual rigor was met with collegial support at a University of North Carolina at Chapel joint symposium with King’s College London on political change in Eastern Europe in Spring 2020.

Supported by funding to foster collaboration between UNC-Chapel Hill and strategic partner King’s College London (KCL), Milada Vachudova, associate professor of political science and joint faculty in global studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, organized a joint symposium with her colleague Adam Fagan, professor and vice dean for education at the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy at KCL.

The symposium hosted 25 participants in London during March, examining political change in Eastern Europe in light of global trends that include populism and the turn away from liberal democracy. A central purpose was to promote undergraduate and graduate research, bringing King’s and UNC-Chapel Hill students together with groundbreaking scholars of European comparative politics in the United Kingdom and beyond.

The symposium was preceded by a methodology workshop that allowed students to share their research strategies and brainstorm ideas about how to overcome the challenges of original research in the framework of their degree programs. Contributions at the symposium covered political and social change in East Central Europe, South Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans with a special focus on how citizens, civic groups and social movements have responded to authoritarian politics across the region.

The academic debates were collegial in a remarkably supportive and collaborative atmosphere. Symposium organizers were especially grateful that graduating students had this opportunity to engage with global academic research abroad.

UNC-Chapel Hill and KCL established a strategic partnership in 2005. The alliance has become one of the most ambitious partnerships between U.S. and U.K. universities, including longstanding and emerging joint activity in teaching, research and other initiatives in diverse fields.

Carolina organizers expressed gratitude to KCL for arranging symposium logistics and providing support for many participants. In addition to support from the Institute for Arts and Humanities King’s College London Fund, supported by College of Arts & Sciences, Carolina student participants also received support from the Curriculum in Global Studies and the Department of Political Science. UNC-Chapel Hill participants included Carmen Huerta Bapat, assistant professor of global studies; Faith Goldsmith ’20 M.A., global studies; Hannah Day ’20, global studies; Nicholous Rucker ’20, global studies and political science; Martin Naunov ’25 Ph.D., political science; and Courtney Blackington ‘24 Ph.D., political science.

The symposium links to two workshops at UNC-Chapel Hill organized by Vachudova on populism and political change in Europe and across the globe. The first workshop took place in October 2019 in the FedEx Global Education Center. It was sponsored by the Center for European Studies, the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund, the Curriculum in Global Studies and the Department of Political Science. The next workshop, which will bring colleagues from KCL to UNC-Chapel Hill, is scheduled for Fall 2021.