The first Universitas Café in the new semester has touched upon the current pandemic in a historical context with a lecture entitled Plague Epidemic in the Early Modern Period in Czechlands. Recently, Veronika Janečková and Aneta Kohoutová, students of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, have taken charge of the Café.
How would you briefly describe the Universitas Café?
Veronika: It is a series of talks held at Klub 29, which offers an informal setting. Our role as the organizers is inviting the speaker and organizing the talks so that they are attractive for as many students and members of the public as possible. Our aim is to spark interest in science and knowledge and create an atmosphere that will be conducive to asking questions and finding answers.
Aneta: People meet at a friendly place outside the classroom walls to discuss topics that do involve an academic dimension.
What was your personal motivation for joining the project?
Veronika: During my study at the University of Pardubice, I attended a number of talks and conferences, which were not obligatory and no credits were awarded for the attendance. I simply attended them in my free time to learn more about things outside my field of study. I see organizing talks for the Universitas Café as doing something in return since I fully realize that there was a real organizer behind each talk or conference that I could attend. That is why I was happy to join the project when I was approached.
Aneta: What I liked about the project was stepping outside the university premises and discussing academic topics in the fresh air. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to get the public involved in university activities, which is an extremely important motivation for me.
How time-consuming is the organization? How much in advance do you start preparing and arranging the talks?
Veronika: Since it was just before the COVID-19 outbreak that we got in charge, I cannot, in fact, tell how the preparation process looks like under normal circumstances. At the moment, all is frantic and no one knows what to expect.
Aneta: Our ideal scenario would be planning the programme for the entire semester, which we have, actually, managed to do this semester due to the pandemic, which postponed most of the talks. At the moment, we are approaching mainly speakers from the University of Pardubice, but in the future we would like to approach experts from other universities or institutions too.
How do you choose the topics for individual talks?
Veronika: Our primary aim is that the talks be attractive for students and the public. We would like to give the researchers from the University of Pardubice an opportunity to present and discuss their research; personally I am really interested in what the teachers at our university deal with and what progress they achieve. At the same time, we would like to invite experts from other institutions to be able to maintain the diversity of topics, for which the Universitas Café is famous, thanks to the excellent work of our predecessors.
Aneta: It seems to me that so far we have been approaching particular speakers, rather than choosing specific topics. We have been in charge for too short a time to be able to give a proper answer. In the future, I would like to focus on topical issues as well as innovations in traditional topics.
Which talk scheduled for the fall semester do you look forward to the most? Who was most difficult to persuade?
Veronika: I look forward to all the talks and I believe that all the topics are interesting.
Aneta: What I look forward to the most is a talk that will not be subject to any restrictions. Topic-wise, I agree with Veronika and I am happy about each of the talks.
Have you thought of an alternative in case there are some containment measures in place?
Aneta: Unfortunately, we have to. At the moment, we are discussing moving the talks online. We are fine tuning the details.
The name Universitas Café lends itself to the following question: Will the attendees be able to have a coffee or something sweet to eat?
Veronika: Absolutely. The talks take place in an informal setting, in Klub 29, rather than at the university, so that the attendees may listen to the talks while enjoying something to eat.
Aneta: Quite so. Having something sweet, that is where the added value of the talks lies. In fact, the café environment itself has been traditionally a place for meeting people and enjoying a hot drink. That is what brings people attending the talks together. I hope that the informal nature will make it possible to break any barriers and counter prejudices that some of the attendees may have as they otherwise avoid university as an ivory tower. In fact, what we offer is a sort of a friendly pub chat.