NIU will confer an honorary doctorate degree this fall to Vullnet Ameti, a man who demonstrated his belief in education as a human right by helping to establish the only Albanian university in Macedonia.
“Dr. Vullnet Ameti is one of the most charitable and courageous men I have ever met,” Preston said. “He is truly a man that cares about the people of his nation.”
He has proven his commitment many times over, Preston added.
“In the early ’90s, the government did not recognize Albanians living in Macedonia as equal citizens,” he said. “They were not allowed to vote, or use the same facilities, and were not granted the right to education.”
Change began in 1994.
“Rector Ameti, along with other Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia, led the protests in front of the rifle barrels of the Macedonian gendarmerie,” Preston said. “Until then, Albanians only dreamt about the possibility of earning a secondary degree in their home country.”
For Ameti, those dreams took him from his homeland to Yugoslavia, where he earned his bachelor’s (1985) and master’s (1989) degrees at the University of Pristina, and later to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he completed his Ph.D. degree at the University of Tuzla in 2008.
But it was in Macedonia where Ameti would build his legacy.
Working with his fellow ethnic Albanians, Ameti began to recruit teachers to open and staff a university. Students and teachers held classes in churches, mosques, restaurants and even private homes.
“On June 4, 1994, Rector Ameti and his family donated a small piece of farmland for the purpose of starting a university. This was the first, and as of today the only, Albanian university in Macedonia,” Preston said.
Ten years later, the national government finally recognized the University of Tetovo as a state university of higher education.
More than 27,000 students now are enrolled in pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the Ph.D. level.
“He has taught thousands of students and continues to be a rector of the people,” Preston said. “He is never afraid to get his hands dirty. I have witnessed him on many occasions lay bricks for new buildings on campus, cut bushes and trees and feed the homeless.”
Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman visited the University of Tetovo in 2015 to dedicate the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication, a joint venture with NIU meant to foster better social platforms for younger generations and a better society.
The center hosted its first international conference last December. Around 225 people, including a contingent of five from NIU, attended “The Impact of U.S. Policy in Promoting Democracy, Peace, State-Building, Economic Recovery and the Protection of National, Religious and Civic Values in the Countries of the Region” gathering last year.
Freeman returned to Macedonia in May of this year to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Tetovo.
“Rector Ameti always has impressed me with his bravery in the face of resistance and his determination to provide higher education to ethnic Albanians living in Macedonia. What he has done – what he continues to do – is remarkable, inspirational and humbling,” Freeman said. “I always look forward to our visits, as well as our conversations about access to education, and it will be my great privilege to present him with this honorary degree.”
Patrick Roberts, an associate professor in the NIU College of Education’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, shares in the enthusiasm for Ameti’s NIU recognition.
Roberts helped to plan and lead last December’s international conference on democracy and is spearheading a mostly photographic exhibition depicting the history of the University of Tetovo.
The exhibit, hosted in the Blackwell History of Education Museum in Gabel Hall, will open in December to coincide with Ameti’s visit to DeKalb.
“Under Professor Dr. Ameti’s leadership, UT has become a world-class institution that continues to be committed to educational access and equity, its founding vision. The story of UT is really a story of community and courage, and we’re excited to tell that story here at the College of Education’s Blackwell Museum,” Roberts said.
“Dr. Ameti has been wonderfully supportive of our efforts to pull the exhibition together, and that’s just one example of the many things he’s done to nurture the partnership between NIU and UT,” he added. “What’s so admirable is that he has established a forward-looking vision for UT’s future that remains firmly committed to the social justice issues that have animated its past. That’s inspiring.”