Bridge Builder

Il progetto Bridge Builder, sviluppato dalla Facoltà di Scienze Sociali grazie alla collaborazione con istituzioni e fondazioni estere, mira a fornire formazione di alto livello per futuri dirigenti e imprenditori provenienti dai Paesi dell'Europa centrale e orientale. La formazione si basa sulla tradizione sociale cristiana e mira a sviluppare la comprensione interculturale e internazionale.

Why the “Bridge Builder” Project?

Like the Central and Eastern European region of which it is a part, the Catholic Church in this part of the world has been going through a period of great upheaval and change, with many new opportunities emerging as well as many new threats to be faced. In a situation such as this, the skills of leadership and of entrepreneurship, the latter in its widest sense of building institutions to make the most of opportunities, can make the difference between success and failure. The Bridge Builder project, based in the Faculty of Social Sciences (FASS) at the Pontifical University of St Thomas (Angelicum) in collaboration with a cooperating foundation, aims at providing high level formation for future leaders and entrepreneurs from this part of Europe. The formation is based in the Christian social tradition and develops an intercultural and international understanding among those who receive it.

The aims of the project are the following:

1. To create a group of well-rounded young people from various countries in Central and Eastern Europe who will go through a formation programme together, primarily in Rome, aimed at:

a. developing “builders” of social and religious value;
b. able to “build bridges” beyond the borders of their own country and its problems;
c. and able to be among the leaders of the Church, especially in its social apostolate, in the next generation;

2. To develop these people in collaboration with sending institutions (dioceses, religious orders, universities, Caritas or other aid agencies, and so on) so that the investment in their formation represents an investment in the Church and/or the local culture of each of the countries represented by members of the project;

3. To support, where possible, an ongoing network between these actual or future leaders.

To Whom is the Bridge Builder Project addressed?

One of the key elements of this project is that it is addressed not only to potential students, but also to the institutions of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe – dioceses, religious institutes, universities, aid organisations and the like, called “sending institutions” (S.I.). An essential element of the Bridge Builder project is that the students who form part of it are “sent” (with all the theological meaning that word has), and that there is a “sending” institution that needs them to receive the kind of formation that the Bridge Builder project offers and sees a future for them as part of the mission of the diocese, religious order, university or other kind of sending institution. Although the main work of the project is to give formation to future leaders, the role of the sending institution is crucial in the selection of that person and in making sure that the formation given strengthens the mission of the Church.

What does the Bridge Builder Project involve?

Academic formation

Our faculty aims to give students sufficient formation in the main subjects that deal with social issues so that they understand the basics of these subjects and could talk to an expert in those fields. The central, core courses offered are those in ethics and social teaching. The main areas of study are:

- Ethics and social teaching;
- Economics and Business management;
- Politics and History;
- Sociology and Psychology;
- Law and International Relations
- Social Communications

We are trying to produce change agents or builders of social value, in other words, social entrepreneurs, rather than†specialists in any†particular discipline. Hence our students will be able to look at social problems from the various different perspectives that modern social disciplines can give them and integrate these perspectives into practical solutions.

To support this objective, as part of the main academic programme, we involve the students in year-long seminars where they deal with a social problem with the various experts in the department. For instance, they might study the issue of poverty, and would do this with the economist, the sociologist, the business specialist, the psychologist, the anthropologist, the political scientist, the legal expert and the specialist in international relations. The lecturers guiding the seminar and helping the students to integrate what they have learned into solutions to the problems dealt with are always the ethics experts, since we want to encourage the students to see ethics and Christian social thought as integral to, and grounding, any genuine solution to the social problems we face.

Study programmes can be personalised, where students may work towards developing a particular professional profile (especially one in the area of management) or where there are particular academic needs. This could also include the involvement of the sending institution, possibly with some of the formation itself taking place in the home base (e.g. a period of work experience) to strengthen links between the student and the sending institution and ease their return back to it after the end of the programme.

Our full-time programme is taught in Italian, so students have to be prepared to learn this language well. We therefore need to offer scholarships to students who have demonstrated good language capabilities, though, since we provide language training as part of the programme, students do not need to be proficient in Italian before applying for admission to the faculty. We also give an entrance exam to students applying for the first cycle to check their level of mathematics before they start with us. Sometimes in the first year we need to give students back-up lessons in mathematics so that they can deal with statistics. The costs for language courses and catch-up mathematics will be covered by the department.

Supplementary Formation

In order to help prepare students as “change agents” or “social entrepreneurs”, apart from the main academic courses, students will take part in a number of other programmes which could include the following:

  • modules in the management of non-profit organisations or in business management from a corporate social responsibility (CSR) perspective;
  • work experience placements with NGO’s, international organisations based in Rome or elsewhere, various offices in the Vatican curia, or other similar organisations;
  • participation in other specific types of relevant programme, depending on the availability of funding, including specialist seminars in Catholic social thought, international summer schools and the like.

Visits and meetings with major figures like the ambassadors to the Holy See, especially from their home countries, international organisations like the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) based in Rome, Vatican curial offices, esp Culture and Dialogue with Religions, Justice and Peace (where possible, involving them in international meetings organised by these dicasteries)
where possible, involvement in the running of the Faculty of Social Sciences itself, including things like tutoring first and second year students or running the department website, and being part of the team that is putting together and running our faculty strategic plan.

This allows students to get experience of planning in a non-profit and, specifically, in an academic environment and the kinds of problems one can encounter doing this. Learning how to get around these problems so as to deliver on objectives on time is a crucial skill that students can begin to gain in a real live planning case.

What Financial Assistance is available?

There are two basic types of scholarship available for this project:

1. “Bridge Builder” full scholarships, covering board and lodging, course fees and related expenses. These are targeted at Licence and Doctoral students (second and third cycle students);

2. Partial scholarships, related to the country of origin of the student. These are available at any level of formation provided in the faculty, though they will be primarily for first cycle students. Partial scholarships are available for students coming from the 10 post-communist countries that are now part of the European Union (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Rumania, Bulgaria), though if we can find other donors to complete a scholarship, we may be able to offer them to those outside the EU (students coming from EU countries may also work to supplement a partial scholarship, hence the distinction between EU and non-EU students here). We hope to name the scholarships after important figures (if possible, Dominicans) in the Church of each of these countries. For the time being, the scholarships for students from Poland and Hungary have been named, that is:

a. Woroniecki scholarships, for Polish students
b. Horv·th scholarships, for Hungarian students

How does one apply for Financial Assistance?

1. Bridge Builder Full Scholarships

Apart from academic aptitude and a well-rounded personality, the key factors in obtaining this kind of scholarship are:

•  the interest that the sending institution shows in the candidate, as well as the clarity and conviction with which the project in which the sending institution expects them to collaborate on their return is presented;

•  the way in which the candidate demonstrates his or her interest in, and competence to participate in, the project proposed by the sending institution.

Normally, students applying for a Bridge Builder scholarship will have the formation necessary to be registered at the Licence level or higher. This means that they will have a first degree in one of the following areas, or a closely related area:

•  economics
•  political science
•  international relations
•  law
•  sociology
•  psychology
•  history
•  social communications
•  business
•  anthropology

Where students have followed combined programmes, such as economics and politics, law and international relations, sociology with significant elements of psychology, economics or anthropology, they will have an advantage in the selection process.

Students who have studied theology and/or philosophy alone will normally need to register at the first cycle level (where they could be eligible for a partial scholarship, see below).

The application for the Bridge Builder scholarship needs to be made to the Faculty of Social Sciences at the PUST, though the decision about whether the student will receive it depends on a collaborating foundation. The application itself needs to be sent by the sending institution to the Faculty of Social Sciences as early as possible. A complete set of documents should be attached to the application as annexes, since otherwise the decision about the application might experience considerable delay.

The application should contain the following information/documents:

a) Name of the candidate, address, country, telephone numbers, email address

b) Date and place of birth (as a rule the age of applicants for MA/post-graduate studies should not normally exceed 27 years, for doctoral studies 33 years)

c) A curriculum vitae with detailed information on previous education and training, if applicable, formation as a religious including the vows taken, diplomas and academic certificates obtained including the academic transcripts and working experience. If applicable, a list of publications should also be attached. Photocopies of diplomas and certificates should always be sent in.

d) The level of English language skills has to be clearly indicated as well as the general aptitude of the student for learning languages (the main academic programmes in our department are in Italian, but it is not necessary to be able to speak Italian before applying for the scholarship. We will provide language training opportunities. What is important is a general aptitude for learning languages).

e) Letter(s) of recommendation by the highest authority within the 'sending' organization (e.g. the bishop in case of a diocesan priest or lay person; the rector, dean or vice-chancellor of an institute of education; a general or provincial superior for religious or another responsible authority), preferably based on an interview. Other relevant letters of recommendation are welcome.

f) A compulsory testimonial should be addressed directly to the executive secretary of the foundation, describing 1. the academic/professional skills and potential as well as 2. the personality/character of the applicant.

g) Both the candidate and the 'sending' institution should outline the intended future work situation in clear terms.

h) A presentation of the details of the study programme and an itemised budget need to be prepared between the applicant and the Social Sciences Faculty at the PUST (Angelicum) and included in the dossier sent to the foundation.

Once the above documents have been received by the Faculty of Social Sciences, and an evaluation has been made of the student regarding his or her suitability to participate in this project, the faculty will contact the student so as to draw up a programme of study. The Faculty will also prepare an itemised budget regarding costs that the scholarship needs to cover. This, along with a letter of acceptance into the Faculty of Social Sciences and into the Bridge Builder project, will be included in the student’s dossier and the whole will be sent to the foundation by the Faculty. Any decision made by the foundation in relation to the scholarship grant will take effect only after the candidate has fulfilled all requirements to get accepted and is ready to start. If deemed necessary, the foundation’s executive secretary may call for an interview of the applicant.

Applications for Oct 2013 need to be completed, with the help of the Faculty of Social Sciences, by March 4 2013.

Applications for Feb 2014 need to be completed, with the Faculty of Social Sciences, by Aug 1 2013.

Continuation of the scholarship from one year to the next depends on the submission of a satisfactory progress and financial report to the foundation for the previous study year, as well as the study plan for the next year, including any budget updates. This will be prepared by the Faculty, in collaboration with the student where necessary. The progress report should include information about the development and results of the study year, i.e. assessing the academic, personal and cultural benefit from the scholarship. A transcript of the academic record over the past period must be attached to the report.

2. Partial Scholarships: Woroniecki (Poland), Horv·th (Hungary) and scholarships still to be named for Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Lativa, Estonia, Rumania, Bulgaria.

What kind of student are we looking for?

For the Woroniecki and Horv·th scholarships, we are primarily interested in students who would like to follow the full-time programme of studies we have here, starting with the three year bachelor's degree and, potentially, moving on from that to higher degrees (licence, 2 years; doctorate, 3 years). This means that we are mainly interested in students who have not studied social sciences before (or related subjects), and especially those who have studied theology and/or philosophy before they arrive. We are also able to consider people transferring to our degree after one or two years at university, though again, we will give preference to students who are interested in doing the full degree programme with us.
This does not mean that we will not consider someone who has studied economics or political science or sociology (or a similar subject) for this scholarship, but that it is likely that such students would not need to do a full programme with us, and we are primarily interested in students who are interested in and willing to take the full programme we offer. Furthermore, the Bridge Builder full scholarships are also available at the higher degree level (licence and doctorate; see above).
It is also possible to consider students who are finishing high school and for whom this would be their first degree, though we will give preference to those who have prior theological and/or philosophical formation.

What do the partial scholarships offer?

The scholarship package offers the following:

  1. Free accommodation in apartments that we manage around Rome for our scholarship students;
  2. A scholarship to cover all fees for the degrees for which the student registers;
  3. Payment of the health insurance premium, where necessary, for access to the national health service for the time that the student is here.
  4. Other services and support through the non-profit organisation we run to help students, Adjuvantes.

These are partial scholarships; they do not cover all living expenses, but we can help students find work when they are here if they are not able to support themselves with their own or their family's resources or they cannot obtain supplementary scholarships from elsewhere.

What to do to apply for a Woroniewski or Horváth Scholarship?

The candidate first needs to make an initial contact with the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Angelicum, giving some basic information about him or herself and why (s)he is interested in the scholarship.

If this initial contact has gone well, the next stage is to send the Faculty of Social Sciences a dossier which includes the following:


  1. Name of the candidate, address, telephone numbers, email address.
  2. Date and place of birth.
  3. A curriculum vitae with detailed information on previous education and training, and, if applicable, formation as a religious including the vows taken, diplomas and academic certificates obtained including academic transcripts and an attestation regarding a working experience. If applicable, a list of publications should also be attached. Photocopies of diplomas and certificates should always be sent in.
  4. A demonstrated level of language capability has to be clearly indicated. If a student already speaks Italian, this is an advantage, and should be indicated.
  5. A written testimonial by two referees. Ideally, one should be more academic and the other more on the personal qualities and/or religious involvement and interest of the candidate. In some way, both the academic/professional skills and potential as well as the personality/character of the applicant should be covered in the testimonial.
  6. An indication of the future work that the student hopes to pursue after studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences are complete is also needed. Since these are partial scholarships, the requirement to be clearly inserted into a project of a sending institution is not as important as in the case of the full, Bridge-builder scholarships. However, since there are not many scholarships of this kind available, the more clearly a student can show that he or she is connected with a sending institution who sees him/her as a future collaborator in their projects (especially when there are Dominicans, friars or sisters), the more likely the person is to qualify for a partial scholarship.

Applications for Oct 2013 need to be completed, with the help of the Faculty of Social Sciences, by March 4 2013. Applications for Feb 2014 need to be completed, with the Faculty of Social Sciences, by Aug 1 2013.  Although we can consider later applications, it is less likely that the candidate can be considered for a partial scholarship for the academic year 2012-2013 if their application arrives after this date.

Any decision in relation to the scholarship grant will take effect only after the candidate has fulfilled all requirements to get accepted and is ready to start. If deemed necessary, the Faculty of Social Sciences reserves the right to call for an interview of the applicant at their own expense.