Previous Scholarship Recipients
Robert is finishing up his PhD from the University of Notre Dame in the field of Chemical Biology with a specialization in plant biochemistry. Thereafer, Robert plans to take a position at Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington State. He also currently serves as the national-chair elect of the National Science Policy Network, an organization focused on providing communication skills to scientists. Robert possesses Slovak heritage on both sides of his family, who originate from the Kosice and Spisska Nova Ves regions of Slovakia. Robert's family changed its name from Stancek to Stanley upon arrival in the United States in order to "Americanize" more easily. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, however, the Stanley/Stancek family has reconnected with extended family in Slovakia, and Robert is excited to begin the journey of studying and learning Slovak at SLI this summer!
Karen A. Melis
Karen, a Pittsburgh native and University of Pittsburgh graduate, is passionate about placing our Slovak ancestors in the very contexts in which they lived. Having studied Slovak at Pitt and earned a 2011-2012 Fulbright Scholarship, she spent 10 months studying in Slovakia, speaking the language and embracing the culture firsthand. Karen has 25-plus years of hands-on research digitizing records in over 200 villages of the former Spiš, Orava Counties and the bordering Podhale Regions. With regular research trips overseas, she actively seeks out records and other documents in the Slovak Republic and Polish State Archives. Based on her intimate knowledge, experience, and research capabilities, she formed SlovakGenealogy, LLC to help others find their roots. (See www.ourslovakroots.com). Karen moderates a regular monthly Eastern European Special Interest Group (SIG) with the North Hills Genealogists. She has lectured on Eastern European genealogy at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). As a volunteer group administrator of 4 geographic DNA projects with FamilyTreeDNA, she assists project members to understand genetic matches by combining traditional genealogy with DNA testing. Karen sincerely thanks the Slovak-American Cultural Center for their support in continuing her journey!
Scott is a PhD student in linguistics at Stanford University. He is currently writing his dissertation on the topic of compensatory lengthening, which involves one sound in a word being deleted, and another one growing longer to make up for it. Slovak reportedly displays an extremely rare and fascinating version of this phenomenon; a proper understanding of it could forever change how we view human sound processing more generally. Scott is excited to have the opportunity to take Slovak classes at the University of Pittsburgh this summer, so he can dive into this interesting but underappreciated language and discover how it really works!
Julie is a professional genealogist and former Latin teacher with a passion for languages. She lives with her husband in Burlington, Massachusetts, where they raised two daughters, and she is an instructor and content developer in the Genealogy Studies Program at Boston University's Center for Professional Education. The granddaughter of Slovak immigrants who settled in rural Michigan, Julie has had a lifelong interest in her Slovak heritage. In the late 1990s she began connecting with Slovak descendants of her grandparents' siblings and cousins, and in 2000 made the first of (so far!) four trips to Slovakia and fell in love with the country. In the future she would like to apply her language skills to in-depth archival research of her ancestral villages in the Kysuca river region.
Tim is a retired social studies teacher (having taught Western civilization, psychology, and a "Slovak word per day") and guidance counselor with 30 years of teaching experience. In 2001 Tim took a sabbatical year and taught at City University in Bratislava. Tim's passion for Slovak language and culture began at a very early age through interactions with his grandparents, three of which were native born eastern Slovaks who spoke in the Zemplín dialect, along with some Spiš. "I plan on spending the rest of my life learning, teaching, and using as much of the Slovak language as I can. Of course, I will continue to travel to Slovakia as often as possible. In doing so, I believe that this is my way of honoring my grandparents who made the courageous decision to come to the USA. They gave me, and all of us who are the product of immigrants, the wonderful life that I have had." Tim is a lifelong member of Jednota, the First Catholic Slovak Union.
Mary recently discovered her Slovak heritage and has been writing a novel about her great-great grandparents, who immigrated to the United States in 1881. She studies the Slovak language in the hopes that one day she can visit the village they came from. Indirectly, learning Slovak grammar has made her even better at teaching high school English in South Florida!
Andrew traces his heritage to the Spiš region of Slovakia. Currently in the second year of his aviation degree and commercial pilot license, he is a returning student at both the Slovak Summer Language Institute at the University of Pittsburgh (SLI) and Studia Academia Slovaca through Comenius University (SAS). He is also an alumnus of Pitt's Slovak Studies Program.
Outside of the classroom, Andrew is an active member of the Western PA Slovak Cultural Association and the Slovak-American Cultural Center. Andrew also volunteers as Docent Manager with the Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka. He is in the final stages of receiving the Slovak Living Abroad certification with his father and brother and hopes to act as a mentor and guide for others who wish to pursue the SLA certification.
Andrew is extremely grateful for SACC's continued support of his Slovak studies. His ambition is to combine these incredible language acquisition programs with his soon-to-be Slovak Living Abroad status to strengthen the already robust relationship between the people of the United States and Slovakia.
Andrew's grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Tatra Mountain region of Slovakia.
A 2016 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and a minor in Economics, Andrew is currently an Aviation student in the Professional Pilot Course at the Community College of Beaver County. In addition, he is cross-enrolled at the Univ. of Pittsburgh where he studies Slovak language and culture.
Outside of the classroom, Andrew is an active member of the Western PA Slovak Cultural Association, volunteers as Docent Manager with the Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka, and is manager-player on two local amateur soccer teams.
Andrew is grateful to SACC for supporting his Slovak studies. He hopes to connect with friends and extended family in Slovakia and to instruct Slovak students in flight training.
Professor Joel Fetzer
Joel S. Fetzer is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. A scholar of international politics, he has published seven books and many journal articles looking at public opinion, voting behavior, and political history. He wishes to improve his Slovak-language skills at the University of Pittsburgh this summer in order to improve his teaching of European Politics and to prepare for research projects on elite political discourse in Slovakia and religion and politics in Eastern Europe.
Isaac Mirti is a fifth-year Honors student at the University of Florida majoring in Statistics and Economics and minoring in African Studies. Isaac grew up on an organic farm in Gainesville, Florida. Through farming, he developed a passion for the outdoors and anything related to food, from production to consumption. When not busy with school, Isaac enjoys running, developing new recipes, and planning his next trip abroad.
After graduation, Isaac hopes to pursue postgraduate studies in finance and development economics in the United Kingdom. In the future, he would like to work in public policy and agricultural development to address food insecurity in developing countries and regions throughout the world.
Isaac regularly visits friends in the Banska Bystrica region of Slovakia and has fallen in love with the country's culture and beauty. He hopes his future work will include trips to Slovakia.