A world of peace…such is the dream and driving force for Professor Arber Celiku. Celiku is Albanian, a native of North Macedonia and currently a visiting professor at NIU Business. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Mannheim Germany, where he graduated with a doctoral degree in German linguistics and international and cross-cultural communications — an area of expertise that he shares this semester with NIU MBA students.
You could say that guest lecturing in other countries on the topic of cross-cultural communications goes with the territory. But no matter where he travels, Professor Celiku brings his home, the Balkan Peninsula, with him. As he describes it, the Balkan Peninsula is a complex part of the world characterized by extremes: from the wide-ranging beauty that shapes Southeastern Europe, to its rich multicultural societies, to its complicated geopolitical and territorial issues. Over the course of its long history, Southeastern Europe has been invaded by Germany, Russia, Greece, and the Ottomans, among other occupying forces. The area has experienced governments ranging from communist to fascist to fledgling democracies. Presently, more than 50 political parties call North Macedonia home. Yet for large segments of the population, decades of drastic changes such as these have had the combined effect of severely curtailing access to opportunities of all kinds – educational, professional, developmental.
It’s precisely because of this that, for Celiku, the need for peace becomes even more apparent. His most notable achievement to date along that path has been the creation of the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication at the University of Tetovo (UT), a major university with 25,000 students that is in Tetovo, North Macedonia. The Center, which he envisioned six years ago, was officially launched in 2018 through a collaboration between NIU and UT. The agreement between the two universities began in 2014 when Celiku still served UT as dean, then later as vice president for international cooperations. The ceremonial launch of the Center and then the subsequent travels in late 2018 to continue to strengthen the relationship included UT leadership and faculty, NIU leadership and faculty, the U.S. Ambassador to North Macedonia, two Ministers of the North Macedonian government, business leaders and students.
“It is our great pleasure to welcome our good and distinguished friend Professor Celiku back onto the NIU campus and into Barsema Hall this past summer and through the fall semester,” says NIU College of Business Dean Balaji Rajagopalan. “During these challenging times, Professor Celiku’s insights on the importance of creating understanding and common ground are of great significance. It’s a vitally meaningful conversation to begin and to continue to have.”
And while Celiku eagerly sheds light on the interdependent nature between peace and communications, he also readily acknowledges that effective communication is oftentimes anything but easy.
“Stereotypes are everywhere,” he explains, “and can become difficult to dismantle. This is particularly true when they are made and amplified by leading figures in society.” Celiku adds that in order for meaningful change to occur, the younger generation “must be actively involved” and must contribute.
“The younger generation is much more inclined toward collaboration. Their perspective is typically much more open; their thinking, more free. In a way, time is on their side…they haven’t developed as many learned prejudices.”
His insight here resonates so strongly with Anthony Preston, the college’s assistant dean for graduate programs, that Preston asked Celiku to share his expertise with the college’s MBA students.
“Professor Celiku brings many life lessons and experiences to the classroom that we all can learn from,” Preston says. “The business environment continues to become more global. Our graduates will most certainly work with people from different countries, cultures and ethnicities. Even though our students can’t travel abroad this semester due to the pandemic, we’re grateful they can still learn global perspectives firsthand through Professor Celiku’s discussions and workshops.”
In fact, Celiku would most likely begin discussions by saying that even in a hyper-connected world, sometimes the smallest act becomes monumental. He strongly implies as much when he shares tips that can be used immediately for creating meaningful communication.
“We must all remember we are responsible for our own actions. Patience is the best thing for a human being. Be optimistic. Be positive. Be aware. Make the effort to understand one another. Listen.”
Professor Celiku pauses then repeats with emphasis, “Listen. And remember…the world is made for everyone.”