Alumni ‘Thesis Buddies’ Help Students in Need

June 19, 2020

When Covid-19 threw this academic year into a tailspin, many CEU students found themselves isolated in the dorm – and struggling to cope. Thesis writing, a struggle at the best of times, seemed all the more daunting. 

Enter: CEU alumni. Nearly 50 of them came to the rescue this spring and volunteered as “thesis buddies” – unofficial advisors focused on helping students complete their dissertations on time. (See volunteers list below.) 

As one ‘buddy,’ alumna Olena Podolian (POLS ‘07) put it, the initiative was a means to alleviate the “double lockdown” of Covid-19 sheltering and dissertation writing — a potentially debilitating combo. 

Thesis buddies were assigned to individual students, matched by academic unit or discipline whenever possible. Not advisors in the official sense, instead they checked in regularly with students to help them stay focused, overcome writer’s block and power through personal milestones. 

Students could share their concerns and their drafts with their ‘buddies’, who would offer limited proofreading and feedback. In some cases, alumni working in higher education or other specific fields provided more specialized guidance. 

Student Aliia Munduzbaeva (ECBS ‘20) was paired with alumnus Ali Haider (ECBS’ 18), who works at the same company she interns at. It proved to be a good fit. “He helped me not only with my thesis but other returning issues as well,” she said. “He was always there to help and give advice.” 

Coming at the close of a difficult year, students seemed to appreciate the assistance. 

“Just knowing that I had someone to talk to about this was a tremendous help,” Agnes Horvath (LEGS ’20) said. 

The Thesis Buddies program was one of several volunteering initiatives sparked in reaction to CEU’s coronavirus response. 

After the university switched to online classes, and students began sheltering in the dorm, Alumni Scholarship Recipient Esther Angonemi Ebimoghan (LEGS '20, Nigeria) noticed her dorm mates struggling with focus and morale while glued to news. 

She and classmates organized relief efforts for students in the dorm, including sharing notes of encouragement and contact info for mental health services. Having already asked a friend and alumna to help her with her thesis, she thought other students could benefit from a similar ‘friend’ helping them stay on task and writing. 

Esther approached the CEU Alumni Relations team with the concept. Once developed further and greenlighted she took the idea to her fellow students in the dorm. It quickly caught on. Soon, nearly 50 students signed on. 

The Alumni Relations office called for volunteers; nearly 100 alums, from three decades of graduating classes, responded. For many it was their first time volunteering for their alma mater. Most signed up as Thesis Buddies. 

“Every student who asked for a buddy received one,” said Nurangiz Khodzharova (IRES ’08) Volunteer Programs Coordinator for CEU’s Alumni Relations office. “I consider that a 100 percent success rate.” 

HUGE THANKS to everyone who volunteered to help this year’s graduates via the Thesis Buddy program. See more volunteering opportunities.


Alexandra M. Szabó (HIST ’18, Hungary)
Ali Haider (ECBS ’18, Pakistan)
Amy Rodgers (NATI ’12, Netherlands)  
Ana Balkovic (POLS ’14, Croatia)                                                                                         
Arin Agich (NATI ’19, North Macedonia)  
Arpad Todor (POLS ’06, Romania)  
Austeja Trinkunaite (POLS ’11, Lithuania)  
Bence Németh (IRES ’09, Hungary)  
Berkin Secme  (POLS ’19, Turkey)
Borislav Buljic (NATI '16, Bosnia Herzegovina)  
Chad J. Poitras(IRES ’05, Canada)  
Colleen H. McCrank (IRES ’09, Canada) 
Constanze Jeitler (HIME ’17, Austria)  
Dániel Dunai (ECON ’13, Hungary) 
Daniel I. Nigohosyan (POLS ’05, Bulgaria) 
Dragana Urumovska (NATI ’18, North Macedonia) 
Dustin R. Gilbreath (POLS ’16, USA) 
Elena B. Stavrevska (IRES ’08, North Macedonia)  
Eli D. Cloonan  (INTR ’18, USA)  
Ezgi Turker (POLS ’17, Turkey)  
Gabor Holch (IRES ’98, Hungary) 
  Ivan Nikolovski (POLS ’17, Macedonia) 
Joanne F. Wood (GENS ’16, United Kingdom)
Kenan Idrizovic (LEGS’13, Bosnia Herzegovina) 
Levente Szinvai (ECBS ’18, Hungary) 
Lucia Szemetová (NATI ’19, Slovakia)
Margarita S. Cherkasheninova (LEGS’16, Kazakhstan)  
Marianna M. Bolshakova (LEGS ’98, Ukraine)
Marko Kukec (POLS ’13, Croatia)
Maryna Shevtsova (GENS ’13, Ukraine)
Max Steuer (IRES ’15,Slovakia)  
Melissa A. Barton (ENVS ’16,USA)
Olena D. Podolian (POLS ’07,Ukraine)
Pratik Phadkule (SPP ’15, India) 
Raluca F. Popp (POLS ’14, Romania)  
Robin J. Fraiture (SPP ’17, Netherlands) 
Stefan Cibian (IRES ’12, Romania) 
Tamara Kolaric (POLS ’19, Croatia) 
  Theresa Weippert (SPP ’17, Germany)
Uchenna J. Emelonye (LEGS ’04, Nigeria) 
Veronica D. Ferrari (SPP ’17, Argentina)
     Vujo Ilic (NATI’12, Serbia)                                                                                   
  Waqas Shabir (SPP ’18, Pakistan)                                                                                                

Curious about what those icons aside the names mean? Check the Volunteer Honor Roll page to find out!