From the early 1950s, the University of Michigan has been a leading center for the study of Czech and Slovak culture, history, language, and politics. Over the years, U-M broadened its reputation in Czech and Slovak studies by organizing a range of activities including issuance of Cross Currents, a yearbook of Central European civilization, history, literature, and politics, published by Michigan Slavic Publications and featuring the works of Václav Havel, Milan Kundera, Josef Skvorecky, and others. Of particular note, the University of Michigan awarded an honorary degree to former Czech President and playwright Václav Havel in 2000.
Czech and Slovak studies at U-M emphasizes cross-disciplinary training in anthropology, art, economics, film, history, literature, linguistics, and sociology. In 2000, the Slavic Department inaugurated annual Czech studies workshops for junior scholars from across the U.S.; six have been held at U-M. CREES regularly features Czech and Slovak culture and history in its lectures and other programs.
Thanks to a generous five-year gift from Ronald Weiser, U.S. ambassador to Slovakia from 2001-04, and his wife, Eileen Lappin Weiser, interest in Slovak studies has grown significantly since 2004. From 2004-08, the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Awards for Student Research and Internships in Slovakia Program supported U-M student travel awards for summer or semester-long research projects or internships in Slovakia. During the same period, the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Professional Development Award Program supported short-term travel awards to U-M and Slovak scholars and artists to stimulate sustained collaboration in research and teaching. Following a major gift from the Weisers in 2008 to fund European and Eurasian studies at U-M, these programs have been included in other CREES and Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia grant programs for U-M students, U-M faculty, and Slovak scholars and artists.