Will you go to study in Prague
INTERVIEW WITH MITCHELL YOUNG, President of University of Northern Virginia - Prague
What is your relationship to the Czech Republic and why did you decide to accept the position to lead the new branch campus of your university in Prague?
I have been living in the Czech Republic for nearly 10 years with my partner, Katerina, who is from Prague. After having spent the past five years as vice president of a local university, taking the role as president was a new challenge for me. I see it as an opportunity to create the sort of university experience that I loved as a student at Williams College and University of Chicago.
How is the branch of University of Northern Virginia going now after the months of preparation?
We are now in the student recruitment phase. A few weeks ago, we attended the Gaudiamus education fair in Brno and were able to meet with hundreds of students. There was great interest in what we are doing. Czech students like the idea of being able to get an accredited American degree without having to go abroad. We've established relationships internationally and are expecting students from Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of Europe.
What do you see as the advantages of your school compared with similarly focused schools in the Czech Republic?
First, we have official American accreditation. A number of American-style schools exist here, but few have full US accreditation. This gives our students global mobility. People everywhere recognize the quality of American higher education.
There are a number of other differences, for example our location in downtown Prague is ideal, but a very important one is our student-centered perspective, which simply means that our primary concern is for our students and their education.
Similar study programs are provided by UNVA in the USA and all of its branch campuses. What is the difference between studying in Prague and studying at other campuses around the world?
The difference is Prague. Prague is a unique and wonderful place to study. While the quality of education, which is standard worldwide, is the thread that links UNVA's various branch campuses, Prague wins hands-down as a learning environment. The living culture, the abundant extra-curricular activities, and the opportunity to absorb the history marks us out. Not to mention that it is still very affordable here on a student budget.
The thing that may attract readers of Cesky Dialog abroad is the Czech Heritage Study Tour. For whom is this program designed?
This is a three-week summer program designed for university students of Czech heritage who want to better understand their roots. There is so much to be proud of. I think that they should know and see the vibrant culture here, understand the fascinating and often difficult history, but mostly they should experience first hand what it is like in the land of their ancestors.
The program is built around a university course, for which UNVA provides three undergraduate credits. It is led by a history professor, but includes guest lectures from a wide range of other faculty in politics, literature, sociology and art. Students visit Moravia and Western Bohemia to see that the Czech Republic is not just Prague. We look at everything from the old Czech legends that form the collective memory of the nation, to Havel and the underground music scene of the seventies. Finally we wrap up with a social and political analysis of the Czech Republic today. It's a whirlwind tour, but we hope it will spark a desire to visit again and continue learning more.
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