Peter Varga (IRES'05)
A native of Hungary, Peter serves as Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Europe at the Open Government Partnership in Berlin. His portfolio includes support for civil society organizations across Europe and open government reforms. A former Fulbright Visiting Practitioner at Stanford University and a Yale graduate, Peter is a passionate world traveler and gourmet.
What do you find most important about the work you do?
I’m sure we’ve all had moments when reading about the latest corruption scandal or encountering a tiresome, nonsensical bureaucratic procedure has made our blood boil. Being able to actually do something about it is a great honor and challenge. The task at hand is devilishly complex. So, the most important aspect of my job is working with practitioners, thinkers and activists at the frontlines of opening up governments to make them really work for all of us, as opposed to narrow elites.
Do you feel your time at CEU prepared you for this?
If anything can prepare one for such a job, I think it’s the bustling intellectual milieu of CEU that combines the theoretical with the practical, the fundamental with the cutting-edge. I’m sure skills learned in these settings are put to test every day.
What was the most important aspect of your time at CEU? What stood out?
It’s been more than ten years since my graduation (I can hardly believe it), but I still cherish that environment of discovery and the collaboration among people who may have come from a variety of backgrounds but shared one goal: to learn more about the world and each other. It’s an attitude I sometimes feel is in short supply in the world, so we need to sustain this determined and open-minded curiosity. CEU was great at that and I’ve tried to find similar settings ever since.
Are you involved with the CEU alumni community? What do you feel the value of such as unique community is, be it socially, professionally, etc.?
I’m not involved day-to-day, but I try to keep abreast of CEU news and find it pleasantly surprising each time I meet a fellow alum through my work. (I meet many!) Of course, I also rallied to CEU’s defense last year and found it reassuring that so many people across my professional and social networks who may not even have heard about CEU before shared supportive thoughts and actions, endorsing the principles of open society and open government. While tough and menacing for CEU, it was also a moment of pride, and reaffirmation of the support for our basic values.
You’re a donor to the CEU Alumni Campaign. What motivates you to give back?
It’s really a no-brainer to give to an institution that stands for so many of the things I believe in and helps such a diverse group of individuals get the opportunities to become drivers of change within their own environments. Being Hungarian, I also take special pride in CEU being the top university in my country and want it to flourish as an island of unrelenting freedom in an otherwise not particularly encouraging environment for critical thought. I believe CEU is a symbol of the determination to see and speak the truth and fight for what is right, which is what I also see in all my partners and colleagues every day. It may not be easy, but we must support this determination in whatever way we can.