Globe in a lightbulb

Building bridges, growing networks

CIVICA’s interdisciplinary summer school on European integration

I could encourage anyone to apply!

Jacob van de Beeten, LSE Law PhD candidate

The European University Institute hosted the first CIVICA doctoral summer school on its campus in Florence, Italy in 2021. More than 30 researchers and faculty from across the alliance took part in the interdisciplinary event. Jacob van de Beeten, a PhD candidate in Law at LSE, was among the attendees.

For Jacob, the opportunity to meet fellow PhD students from different universities and talk about their research and life as a PhD student was a valuable experience. "After 18 months of working on the PhD during the pandemic, this was a great way to start the academic year, especially in the beautiful city of Florence." 

Jacob believes that participating in the CIVICA summer school was a useful morale booster too. "I received encouraging feedback from my peers and a renowned professor in EU law, which at indicates I am heading in the right direction. I could encourage anyone to apply!"

An outdoor talk at the doctoral summer school

Eleven doctoral researchers, all scholars working on European integration, convened for the four-day event on the EUI campus in Florence, Italy. They were joined remotely by three more of their peers. Seven of the CIVICA institutions were represented: Bocconi, EUI, CEU, the Hertie School, LSE, Sciences Po, and SNSPA. Nineteen faculty members from those institutions also took part, either in person or online, as speakers and discussants.

A great way to network across Europe.

Thus Rónán Riordan, a second-year PhD researcher at the Hertie School, summed up the first CIVICA doctoral summer school, on “European integration in historical and contemporary perspective. New approaches and findings.”

Participants in the summer school each had the opportunity to present a paper to the mixed, multi-disciplinary audience of historians, political scientists, sociologists, and legal scholars.

Indeed, this interdisciplinarity was a unique and strongly appreciated feature of the summer school.

Léonard Colomba-Petteng, a PhD researcher at Sciences Po, expressed the value of this experience. “What I found very good was the chance to find out what people are working on in neighbouring disciplines. We are all talking about European integration, but studying and researching it with different methods, from different disciplines and countries. This interaction made the summer school really interesting for me.”

A classroom at the doctoral summer school

For Maria Uttenthal, a first-year PhD researcher at the Hertie School, the summer school marked the first opportunity she has had to present her research in an international conference. She appreciated the “very useful feedback” on her project that she obtained from other disciplines. Marta Alorda Carreras, who is in the final stages of her thesis at the EUI, also noted that: “The enriching feedback from established academics from different backgrounds has been most valuable for my work.”

Interspersed among the presentations of papers were sessions oriented towards gaining professional skills. Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland and present Director of the EUI’s School of Transnational Governance, spoke extensively and openly about his experiences within the European institutions. Stubb was a Member of the European Parliament and had a seat on the European Council; he was also Vice President of the European Investment Bank.

Students in class at the doctoral summer school

Professors Mark Dawson (Hertie School) and Miruna Butnaru-Troncotă (SNSPA) led a session on turning a dissertation into a book, while Professors Ettore Recchi (Sciences Po) and Kalypso Nicolaidis (EUI) together led a session on the ‘state of the art’ in their respective fields of sociology and political science.

During the latter discussion, the more senior academics shared from their own thesis-writing and research experiences. They reflected on what it means to be interdisciplinary, and on the stakes of doing research on European integration, an enterprise termed “rich, provocative, and useful.”

A group outdoors at the doctoral summer school

As Corinna Unger, one of the coordinators of the CIVICA work package on offers for early-stage researchers, explained, the summer school was an opportunity to make use of the CIVICA network, a way to use the alliance’s intellectual resources “more and better,” and to stimulate collaboration across institutional, national and linguistic barriers. 

Written by Jackie Gordon (EUI)

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