The Yugoslav Student Summer Program began in 1990 with an idea to familiarize students in Yugoslavia with graduate programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). It was initiated by Dr. Miodrag Radulovacki, a professor at UIC and an authority in the field of pharmacology and physiology of sleep.
In an interview he gave in October, 1991 Prof. Radulovacki explained how he came to this idea. He said: “Our University accepts students from all over the world; it is only my good looking and bright compatriots, as I like to put it, that are missing! Six years ago I decided to take action: I went to Belgrade and, since I got my MD degree there, talked with the Dean of the Medical School about the Summer Program at UIC. I also talked with the Members of the Board of the Medical Youth Professional Journal “Medicinski Podmladak” where, as a medical student, I published two papers. The greatest help came from Prof. Dragutin Zelenović, an old friend of mine and then Rector of the University of Novi Sad, who personally took me to Prof. Slobodan Unković, the Rector of the University of Belgrade, whom I also knew, to introduce him the idea of the Summer Program. To my delight, both rectors accepted the idea of the initiation of the Summer Program with enthusiasm. So, that is how it all began …”
The program involved the co-operation between the University of Belgrade and the University of Novi Sad on one hand and the University of Illinois at Chicago on the other. Its purpose was to promote graduate studies at UIC and University of Illinois at Urbana-Chapaign (UIUC) as well as to inform students in Yugoslavia how to apply for graduate programs in the US. The purpose of the Program was also to enable teaching assistants to meet and work with professors of world`s reputation in their fields of study, to use one of the best equipped libraries in the US, to obtain rare offprints and materials for their doctoral theses, and to familiarize themselves with the newest research methods.
The best students from Belgrade and Novi Sad came to the University of Illinois once a year and stayed for a month. They were assigned to different laboratories, institutes and departments according to their spheres of interest. There, they were further trained; they expanded their scientific knowledge and took part in some of the research projects. The teaching assistants, who were in graduate programs at the University of Belgrade and the University of Novi Sad, come to UIC and UIUC to collect literature for their doctoral theses and to discuss their research with the Univesrity of Illinois professors..
Another idea behind the Program was to establish links between the UIC professors and the professors in Yugoslavia. In this regard, several UIC professors have been in Yugoslavia (Prof. Chem Narayana, from the Department of Economics, Prof. Jess Maghan, from the Department of Criminal Justice, Prof. Don Marshall, the Head of the Department of English Language and Literature, as well as Professors Eliot Judd, James Hall and Joseph Tabbi, all of them from the Department of English Language and Literature. Two professors from the Faculty Economics of the University of Belgrade, Momcilo Milisavljevic and Dragan Djuricin, visited UIC. One professor from the University of Novi Sad, Vida Ognjenovic, a distinguished writer and playwright and a former director of the most prestigious theater in Yugoslavia, Yugoslav National Theater in Belgrade, visited UIC campus. Prof. Ognjenovic was instrumental in bringing the existence of the Summer Program to the attention of the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Belgrade, his Holiness Pavle, who in his letter to Dr. Radulovacki gave his blessings to the Program. In addition, Prof. Ognjenovic’s drama “Mileva Einstein” was performed at the Oakton College in Chicago in 2002. Professor Ognjenovic was also a Serbian Ambassador in Norway. In addition, Prof. Marija Bogdanovic, Rector of the University of Belgrade and Prof. Bogdan Djuricic, a Pro-Rector of the University of Belgrade as well as Prof. Fuada Stankovic, Rector of the University of Novi Sad, visited UIC.
The reason that this Program has been able to exist for such a long time is because of genereous support of many sponsors both in Yugoslavia and in the US. The collected donations have been used to cover the expenses of travel and stay of the participants of the Summer Program at UIC and UIUC and also for the travel of UIC and UIUC professors to Yugoslavia.
So far 296 students and teaching assistants from the universities in Belgrade and Novi Sad participated in it. As a result of this program over 100 Yugoslav students enrolled in graduate studies at UIC and UIUC and all of them obtained teaching assistantships and fellowships. Only at the Department of Pharmacology at UIC College of Medicine, 16 Yugoslavs have defended their doctoral theses.
Due to the existence of the Summer Program over many years, a big number of Yugoslav students and teaching assistants got a chance to get further training at UIC and UIUC. For many of the participants, this program meant the starting point in getting further expertise and in building their academic careers. For students from Yugoslavia, to gain experience, to make contacts and work with professors and students at UIC and UIUC, to familiarize themselves with professional literature as well as the customs and the life in America – these things were the basic motives for and value of the Summer Program. It would not be too much to say that Yugoslavia was the only country that had such an organized program at the University of Illinois. At the University of Illinois this program has been considered to be the most successful “foreign” exchange program. We believe that this was due to the strict system of pre-selection and selection of the participants. First, the participants were chosen on the basis of their academic success (only the students with the average grade of 9.00 and higher can apply), which was done at the universities in Yugoslavia. The final selection was done at the University of Illinois on the basis of the English essay tests written as part of the exam that Dr.Radulovački organized every December at two Yugoslav Universities. This rigorous selection procedure, guaranteed the program’s meritorious selection of the participants.
At the end of this short introduction the need imposes itself to point out how fortunate it was that two elements important for this original project met in the personality of Prof. Radulovački: a great idea, but also a talent and determination for its realization. Prof. Radulovački once said that his homeroom teacher at his High School in Sremski Karlovci, Teodora Petrović ('Majica`) entrusted three things to her students at the party organized in honour of their passing the final 'Matriculation-Examination' exam: to be persistent, to never let go and always to act fairly. This is especially important if one remembers how many of our great and imaginative ideas and programs remained unrealized on most occasions.
It seems that Prof. Radulovački showed that our core, native resourcefulness on one hand, and his own talent for organization and efficiency on the other, can be a lucky combination.