When he was less than a year old, Dr. Adam Kovach’s family arrived in the U.S. as political refugees from his parents’ native country of Hungary.
Decades later, with the help of a prestigious Fulbright grant, he has returned on an academic and personal mission.
A professor of philosophy at Marymount University, Dr. Kovach was awarded a Fulbright grant in the spring of 2020 to become a visiting professor at Széchenyi István University (SZE) in Gyor, a city in northwest Hungary that lies about halfway between Budapest and Vienna.
After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed his travel, he began his long-awaited experience this fall, and has taught Introduction to Philosophy and Philosophy of Art courses to SZE students.
Although SZE is a large university with an enrollment of about 13,000 and an emphasis on engineering and other STEM fields, philosophy courses are required of most students at the institution. Dr. Kovach’s current research through his Fulbright grant is focused on drawing connections between aesthetic philosophy and Hungarian architecture.
“I have immersed myself in new topics that include the history of local architecture and the aesthetics of architecture, and it’s been a wonderful experience so far,” said Kovach, whose time in Hungary will conclude on Dec. 20. “I will especially remember trips I have taken to smaller towns, abbeys and fortresses across the country, where you can see historical sites spanning 2,000 years up close and in person. There’s so much architecture, art and museums in Hungary that you can only take in a small part of it.”
In addition to his academic pursuits during his Fulbright grant period, Dr. Kovach is seeking to improve his Hungarian language skills before he comes back to Marymount. He describes it as a personal goal, and has sought out opportunities to speak it professionally among colleagues in Hungary.
“My parents used to tell me that all they brought with them when they came to the U.S. was a single suitcase – and me,” he recalled. “They wanted me to be an American, but to still know about Hungary and be able to speak Hungarian. So, I learned the language at home as a child, but I never studied it at school. This trip has helped me build upon what they taught me.”
Another goal for Dr. Kovach is to learn about Hungarian academic life and academic freedom, especially in relation to current social and political trends in the country. He came to Hungary with particular interest in exploring current policies on freedom of the press, immigration and LGBTQ policy, as the Central European nation has earned a reputation for drifting toward authoritarianism in recent years.
“I would like to put these events in historical context and learn how Hungarian college professors and students view the current political and cultural situation,” he said.
Dr. Kovach’s three-month stay at SZE is just the latest connection between Marymount University and Hungary. In 2019, the two institutions signed a partnership agreement that allows for expanded cooperation through double degrees, joint research and student and faculty exchanges.
Marymount also hosted a Fulbright Visiting Scholar from Hungary, Judit Horváth, on campus in the fall of 2019 as she studied roadblocks and aids to motivation in education.
Fulbright is a prestigious award funded by the U.S. government with the goal of improving intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy and intercultural competence between the U.S. and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. Marymount’s Center for Global Engagement (CGE) works with both faculty and staff who are interested in applying for Fulbright grants.
– Marymount University