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Northwestern University

Paths: Cristina Bejan

Cristina Bejan ’04 established herself as a playwright, scholar, actress, and poet

Even as an undergraduate, Cristina Bejan was an invoker of Kant and a champion of ideas. 

She was a poet and a playwright, a thinker and a creator who started at Northwestern as a theater major but ultimately focused on philosophy — penning an honors thesis, quite aptly, on Kant’s theory of personal autonomy.

“The beauty of an arts and science degree is that it allows for the curious mind. I never had a plan, but I was enjoying every moment. And I was crazy-lucky to have amazing mentors, such as my honors thesis supervisor Souleymane Bachir Diagne, with whom I am still in touch,” says Bejan, who is the founder and executive director of the Washington, D.C. arts collective Bucharest Inside the Beltway. 

“I was never pre-professional. I am so glad that Northwestern was a jungle gym where I got to play all the time … in philosophy, history, theater, performance studies and German.”

From that “jungle gym,” Bejan went on to Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship, where she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in history and another prestigious scholarship from the Fulbright Program. A dual citizen of the United States and Romania, Bejan also lived in Bucharest, where she wrote plays and embedded herself in the cutting-edge arts community there. 

“For the artist, every day is a struggle, especially in the U.S. There is a lot of pressure to choose a conventional path. I had the luxury to not start my career [in the U.S.] right away,” says Bejan, who credits her scholarships with allowing her to remain in Bucharest and cultivate her creative voice and vision. “Step by step, I got involved in the Bucharest theater scene and ended up staying and working beyond my Fulbright.”

Today, in addition to bringing a taste of the Bucharest arts scene to the Beltway, Bejan is an accomplished scholar, actress, and poet, as well as a researcher at the United States Holocaust Museum. She is also a prolific playwright, producing an average of one new work per year, as well as a book — The Icarus of Interwar Bucharest — and numerous essays. 

In tandem with this creative output, Bejan has held professional appointments at the Wilson Center, Duke University, Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina. 

“It sounds cheesy, but I really have followed my heart on this path,” says Bejan, who admits that she never stopped thinking about Kant or the things she learned as a student at Northwestern. “I definitely get lost in my mind, but I have made most of my decisions following my heart.” 

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