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BenU Partners With Palacky University to Offer Czech Republic Exchange Program

The schools expanded their program following a faculty exchange last fall. 

Benedictine University is giving its students and faculty an opportunity to pursue academic excellence–not only on an international platform, but in a country and culture that played a major role in the school’s founding.

Through a partnership with Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, Benedictine students can now study at one of the oldest universities in Central Europe and in a country that is firmly rooted in Benedictine’s heritage. And soon, faculty from the two schools will begin to swap classrooms and conduct research side-by-side.

“We’ve made the introductions, made the contacts, and now we’re at a point where we can start brainstorming ideas,” said Georgeen Polyak, Ph.D., who is the director of the Master of Public Health program and an assistant professor of Public Health at Benedictine. “This doesn’t have to be limited to just students. There are a lot of other possibilities for faculty as well.”

Last October, Polyak was part of the first official faculty exchange when she traveled to Olomouc and conducted a two-day lecture on the American health care system for Palacky students.

Czech faculty met with Polyak and other Benedictine faculty in Lisle on May 30 to discuss how to strengthen the exchange program in health sciences and explore other partnerships, including how to best involve faculty from both schools, whether to teach courses in person or through Skype and conduct academic research, Polyak said.

“In almost all the fields we teach, having skills where you are able to work with people from different cultures and different countries will serve students well whatever business they decide to go into,” Polyak said.

“Health is a global business, so they need to see and experience different cultures and seeing a different educational system, getting to know students who are like them but from somewhere else, will be an experience they can take with them and apply for the rest of their lives.”

While on campus, Palacky faculty also toured St. Procopius Abbey, where they met with Benedictine alumni, Fr. Becket Franks, O.S.B., and Fr. David Turner, O.S.B., for a tour and discussion about the historic role the Benedictine monks played in establishing the University. Benedictine was founded 125 years ago as St. Procopius College in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago to educate young men of Czech and Slovak descent.

Palacky University dates back to 1566. It is known nationally as a renowned center for teaching and research, annually enrolling 23,000 students and employing 1800 faculty. The university is organized through eight academic faculties (colleges): Theology, Medicine and Dentistry, Philosophy, Science, Education, Physical Science, Law and Health Science.

Benedictine students who decide to enroll in the exchange program to the Czech Republic will not only further their studies, but also be exposed to a rich foreign culture, tour historic landmarks and possibly come away with a deeper appreciation for their own University, said Marc Davidson, education abroad coordinator for the Office of International Programs and Services.

“It’s a unique opportunity for our students and it’s a great way to learn about the people that founded Benedictine University,” Davidson said. “They can go and experience the culture, the language and understand their different points of view and maybe gain more insight into why the monks started the University.”

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