The Faculty of Economics hosted a team from Marquette University in the USA after a year

Guests International Cooperation

This year, 30 years have passed since signing the joint memorandum on cooperation between UWB and Marquette University (MU), Milwaukee, USA. One of the most significant collaboration initiatives is the semestral course that has brought many inspiring meetings and experiences since the mid-nineties.

It was no different this year when the International Office of ZČU significantly participated in organising the entire week-long project.

"Remember that your teams are supposed to collaborate, not compete. Be inclusive. Notice things around you and share them. And don't forget to take pictures - you'll keep many memories." These were some of Michael Korpela's words at the opening breakfast on Monday, March 11, in which he spoke to the Czech-American team of students and teachers/coordinators during a live connection directly from Milwaukee. M. Korpela, the top manager of the Miller Coors brewery, definitely had something to say to this year's participants. In 1996, he participated in the first course by UWB and MU. He later participated in several runs as a leader and coordinator for the American side.

Given the round anniversary of cooperation, the opening official meeting was also framed by greetings from the top representatives of both universities: the participants were greeted on behalf of the UWB by the vice-rector for the concept of education and student affairs Jiří Kohout and on behalf of the MU, its president Mike Lowel spoke from the recording.

The entire following week was filled with a varied and rich program – getting to know business stories in various areas of human activity directly in the places where the subject is based. "By its very nature, the semester course is built in such a way that its participants learn outside the classroom," adds Jan Tlučhoř, vice dean for studies at the Faculty of Economics and one of the Czech supervisors of this year's course. "This year, we have chosen the topic External factors and shocks to business or regional development, and we want students to perceive everything they learn during the course through this lens."

And so, the Czech-American team met and discussed with the people who make up the technology company AIMTEC or the innovative Pilsen Bistro Arnie's. Course participants learned how individual companies' businesses were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the advent of artificial intelligence. In TechTower, they got to know the story of the former Světovar brewery, whose water tower was revitalised, and today, it is a co-working centre and a place for start-ups and technology companies. They also tried a practical application of virtual reality at CIE Group.

The Czech-American team also visited Cheb, where the Faculty of Economics has been operating continuously since 1990; the students got to know the city's history and the faculty.

They listened to an online lecture by the economist and philosopher Tomáš Sedláček, who opened up about topics such as the past and future of work, the meaning of economic activity, and what will differentiate people from machines in the future. The premium brand Becherovka and the spa industry, represented for example by the Císařský lázně, awaited the participants of the course in Karlovy Vary.

The final day in Prague was filled with an excursion to the Czech National Bank premises and a walk through the iconic places of old Prague.

"The course is designed to include cultural interaction. We want to show the participants with concrete examples what unites the two cities, countries and nations," adds Jiří Preis, vice dean for internationalisation and the second of this year's Czech supervisors.

"That's why we took them to the hockey match of a local team consisting of students from the University of West Bohemia in Plzen. The University Hockey League, in which the Akademici Plzeň club is also a successful participant, grew almost out of nothing and followed the good practice of North American college sports," he adds. The course participants witnessed not only the opening game of this year's playoff but also the leader of the American team, Steve Cole, who even threw the first puck and thus began the game.

During the week, Czech and American students got along excellent. The course does not end with a stay in the Czech Republic. In the coming weeks, they will continue online communication and work on joint projects - comparative studies, which they will present in April in the USA. And on top of that, they have another intense week of excursions and meetings in Milwaukee and Chicago.

This entire package of two-week programs, which form the core of the course, delivers more than just information. These are primarily intercultural skills, the deepening of language competencies and, last but not least, the ability to work in an international team and under time pressure - these are soft skills required of people entering the labour market. This fact is also one of the reasons, among other things, why the economics faculties at both UWB and MU perceive the great added value of this cooperation and want to continue it.


Faculty of Economics

JIří Preis, Jan Tlučhoř

25. 03. 2024