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Learning About Business in the Czech Republic
Associate Professor of Marketing Terri Albert led the trip and taught the international business class, titled “Introduction to the Czech Republic: Business Cultures, Differences and Opportunities.” It was the first class in the Barney MBA program with an international travel component, and school officials hope to provide many more international experiences in the future.
“Twenty years ago, international business was an exotic experience. Today, business is global,” said Barney Dean James Fairfield-Sonn. As a result, courses with an international focus are becoming an “essential” part of a business education, he said.
In fact, one of the Barney School’s four major strategic initiatives is to provide more international academic experiences for all of its students, both graduate and undergraduate. Albert’s course was a very positive step in that direction, Fairfield-Sonn said.
Albert, her husband, Stephen, and nine students traveled to Prague from July 11-16. During their stay, they visited three different businesses and did a case study of the Czech film industry. They had some excellent connections for that project, since Albert and her husband own Prague Studios, one of two film studios in the Czech Republic.
The students met with executives of Prague Studios to learn about their business, took a tour of the studios, and attended a panel discussion with members of the Czech film community. In addition to Prague Studios, Albert and her students visited the headquarters of Pilsner Urquell beer and Ruckl-Crystal glassworks.
They also met with several Americans doing business in Prague, attended an investor forum, and met with executives of CzechInvest, a government economic development agency that works to bring business to the Czech Republic.
Several overall themes emerged during the students’ visit to the Czech Republic, Albert said. First, what sets Czech businesses apart is their focus on exceptional craftsmanship. But marketing has never been a high priority, and most Czech business executives have little formal marketing training, she said.
In fact, CzechInvest expressed an interest in having Barney MBA students return to the Czech Republic next year, study a specific company, and develop a marketing plan for that company, Albert said.
Tim Blevins, Aetna senior program manager and one of the students on the Prague trip, said one of the things he learned from the experience is “the extent to which businesses in other countries can benefit from rigorous, state-of-the-art marketing techniques, strategic planning and human resources practices.” Blevins described Albert’s class as “one of the best academic and overall learning experiences I’ve had as part of my MBA.”
Albert is planning to offer the class on the Czech Republic, including the trip to Prague, during Winterterm and during the summer of 2007. Several of the students who took the class this summer said they would highly recommend it.
“The Prague experience was an invaluable one,” said Barney MBA student John O’Leary, who works as collections coordinator for IKON Office Solutions. “The trip has really opened my eyes in regard to international business, and I am very intrigued by the idea of working in another country after completing the MBA program.”
Christopher Rivera, portfolio accountant for Conning Asset Management, said that the visit to the Czech Republic will benefit him in his business career and in life. This was Rivera’s first trip outside the United States.
“The experience as a whole has helped to shift my perspective on approaching, building and dealing with future business relationships with those of another culture,” Rivera said. “Without understanding peoples' backgrounds, beliefs, and values, it is virtually impossible to create a successful partnership.”