From Serbia to Trinidad … now to Yale

The Story of Professor Aleksandar S. Santrac – presently a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Divinity School in New Haven Connecticut U.S.A.

Interaction between the Balkans and the Caribbean region is generally rare, even more so between the relatively small states of Serbia and Trinidad and Tobago. Nevertheless, it only takes a few innovative thinkers and pioneers in their own right to set trends that would lay the foundation for greater corporation. One such pioneer is Professor Aleksandar S. Santrac.

Professor Santrac is an alumnus of numerous prestigious institutions. He has studied and taught in countries like the United Kingdom, France, Trinidad and Tobago as well as his native country Serbia. Presently he is a visiting fellow at the prestigious Ivy League – Yale University. From 2009-2014, Professor Santrac was Professor of religion, ethics and philosophy at the University of Southern Caribbean in Trinidad. As a Professor on campus he developed a reputation as having a meticulous eye for detail when dealing with his work, as well as humility in dealing with others. Outside of academics, his love for basketball was always obvious as numerous students recall him being a regular presence on the campus court.

Professor Santrac’s decision to move to Trinidad was motivated by what he calls ‘God’s providence’. There was a need for full time, qualified Professors at the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC) and he was willing to make the life-changing decision to move his family from his native country of Serbia to the Caribbean island of Trinidad. With his wife also being a college Professor herself, they both accepted the challenge of moving their family to a completely new environment.

Over the four year long period in which he lived in Trinidad, Professor Santrac noted the beauty of the island and the camaraderie and fellowship he enjoyed with those on campus and the surrounding community. As expected, his admiration and endearment for the people was only mutual. One of his former students Jayden St. Hill, when asked ‘How would you describe Professor Santrac?’ replied simply, “Humble and intelligent.” Jayden continued, “I remember my first class with him, he asked his students to call him by his first name Alex… This was refreshing to see and pleasantly welcomed, coming from a man with two doctorates, and highly respected in various circles locally and internationally. Dr. Santrac was the sole individual who inspired me in two ways: 1) I now love philosophy with all my heart and 2) Because of his influence and being a model to me, I am now desirous of one day doing my doctorate.”

Being one of the first Professors from the Balkan region, and more specifically Serbia, to actively teach at the University of the Southern Caribbean for a substantial period of time, Professor Santrac has contributed to laying the foundation of cooperation and future interaction between two culturally distinct societies. Even though this may be a small contribution in the right direction, it has done much to make Caribbean people aware of Serbia in a more than positive light. Given Professor Santrac’s salutary example, and the stellar reputation that he has in Trinidad, he has surely left a positive impression of his country on the island.

As a Professor and teacher with vast experience, it was only appropriate to gain the Professor’s advice to college students in general. He emphasizes what he calls his three pieces of advice: “Read, read, read…” He also highlights the importance of organizational skills. Given his competence as a Professor, one would be wise to take his advice.

Mikhail E.D. Byng

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