The Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies encourages and facilitates research on all aspects of the Cistercian tradition and in the broader field of religious traditions. The center sponsors sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies and collaborates with the University Libraries on digitization projects. Through the center, the Medieval Institute offers a Graduate Certificate in the History of Monastic Movements, which is open to students enrolled in a graduate degree program at Western Michigan University. The center's advisory board meets annually at the International Congress on Medieval Studies.
The Center is currently developing two digital projects. The Monastic Gazetteer is planned as a dataset and interactive map on the geographic scope of monastic movements (beginning with Western monasticism) over time and provide tools for analysis and scholarly communication. The Janauschek Portal is a collaboration with the Transkribus Project at the University of Innsbruck, the Verein zur Gründung und Förderung der "Europäischen Akademie für Cistercienserforschung" im ehemaligen Kloster Lehnin and the compilers of Cistopedia: Encyclopedia Cisterciensis. The portal will provide access to unpublished manuscripts by Leopold Janauschek (1827–1898).
The Center sponsored six sessions at the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 11-14, 2017) on a variety of topics pertaining to the medieval history of the Cistercian order, including one sited at the Lee Honors College. The Center also offered an additional five panels at the Honors College.
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The center was established in 2010 as a research center under the aegis of the Medieval Institute as the successor to the Institute of Cistercian Studies, which had been founded in 1973 as a cooperative venture between Western Michigan University and Cistercian Publications, Inc.