CEU Alumnus John Kee about his Experience at CEMS

July 20, 2020

John is currently pursuing a PhD in Byzantine Greek with the Department of Classics at Harvard University. He received his MA from the Department of Medieval Studies with an Advanced Certificate in Eastern Mediterranean Studies in 2019. His thesis, entitled “Narrating the Byzantine Border: Wilderness Landscape in Kekaumenos and Digenes Akrites,” was supervised by Volker Menze and Baukje van den Berg

"CEMS is everything that’s best about CEU: a venue for dynamic comparative and interdisciplinary ideas grounded in regional expertise. Like a lot of students, I came to CEU in order to make a transition. In my case, that meant turning an undergraduate education in Classics and a longstanding personal fascination with Byzantium into a capacity for actual research on the Middle Ages. Over the two years of my MA, CEMS proved indispensable at every step. Most immediately, the Center’s lecture program provided me with the long-term chronological perspective on the Eastern Mediterranean that has become essential to my understanding of what scholarship on the region means. The curriculum of the Advanced Certificate similarly drew my attention to vital courses outside my department. A grant allowed me to hone my knowledge of Byzantine Greek at a summer school. Best of all, though, were the opportunities for student leadership. One of CEU’s most valuable attributes as a grad institution is the outstanding availability and openness of its faculty, and CEMS is no exception. When a group of friends and I had an idea for a small lecture series, the director and other senior members gave enthusiastic support. I also had the privilege of helping to organize the biannual Graduate Conference, a chance to connect with young scholars from across the world which became a highlight of my time at CEU. Both those opportunities gave me not only useful experience in the practical logistics of making scholarship happen but also a real sense of investment in the intellectual life of the Center and the university more broadly. Overall, CEMS played a crucial role both in making my Master’s studies at CEU so rewarding and in shaping who I am as a scholar now."