MBA Students Explore Czech Culture and Economy
Online MBA students from the Carson College of Business spent a week in Prague, the “City of 1,000 Spires,” in July, learning about the Czech Republic’s history, culture, and post-communist economy. Eighteen students took part in the trip with faculty advisors Mario Reyes and Debi Mundell.
“This is a learning journey, not a field trip,” Reyes, a clinical professor in the Department of Finance and Management Science, told students. “By the end of the week, you should be a new you, with a new value proposition.”
Here is an account of the trip by students and faculty.
Saturday/Sunday, Welcome to Prague
Our Saturday welcome dinner featured traditional Czech cuisine, pork with dumplings. On Sunday, we took a guided walking tour of Prague’s neighborhoods, including Prague Castle. Some students explored the Vltava River by paddleboat.
“After two years of limited in-person interaction, the Carson College reminded me of all that I was missing in the world,” says John Munsch, a student. “Czech culture is so vibrant, and Prague is a beautiful city. I enjoyed the mix of cultural and business immersions, not to mention the delicious food and beer. Central Europe was somewhere I didn’t expect to visit during my lifetime.”
Monday, Czech history and culture
We delved into Czech history and culture, this time through a personal lens. Our speaker, Jana Vodiĉková, talked about her family’s experience from the end of the Second World War through the 1989 Velvet Revolution, the peaceful transition of power that marked the end of four decades of communist rule.
“I found it absolutely fascinating to listen to the Czech people talk about their history,” says student Denise Thrush. “Jana’s presentation was a real-life walk through a history book. Her personal stories had so much impact. An afternoon scavenger hunt allowed us to see more of Prague, explore public transportation on our own, and try speaking some Czech.”
Tuesday, Czech-American relations, the economy
Czech-American relations and the country’s economy were the focus of the morning session at CzechInvest, a government agency that supports business and promotes innovation.
“Tuesday was one of my favorite days,” says Nancy Alspach (’22 MBA). “I’m a government policy, geography, and political history nut. I found the statistical information about the government, business climate, and innovation in Czech Republic riveting.”
We had lunch at McDonalds before we met with the company’s Czech-based executives. What a surprise to see beer on the menu! McDonald’s international menus are tailored to regional tastes. McDonald’s executives also talked about cultural differences between the Czech Republic and neighboring Slovakia and their effect on brand marketing.
“We finished off the day learning about Czech beer from a local guide and expert, all while touring jaw-dropping historical architecture,” Alspach says.
Wednesday, Exporting Czech products
We spent the morning at Drazice, a large manufacturer of water heaters.
“While it was interesting to see how multinational companies conduct business in the Czech market, I found the visit to Drazice fascinating,” says student Jamie Maxon. “The Czech company is navigating the challenges of sustainable growth while expanding into international markets. Of particular interest was the difficulty of expanding into US markets. Despite the demand for Drazice products, financing, shipping constraints, and capacity are current barriers to entry.”
The day concluded at the Czech headquarters for Wolt Delivery, a Finnish-based food courier service with operations in more than 20 countries.
Thursday, Entrepreneurs and automobiles
We met with tech entrepreneurs at the HubHub Prague business incubator in the morning, then headed to the factory of Czech car maker Škoda.
“Our group was enthralled by the entrepreneurs’ candid reflections on their experiences, including the successes, failures, and lessons learned from working in the Czech tech industry, as well as the culture in a business incubator, says student Alberto Preciado.
“At Škoda, we were treated to a factory tour of the Czech automaker. Seeing assembly line manufacturing and just-in-time inventory in practice at a major manufacturer—with cars being built while we watched—was thrilling.”
Friday, Expats and reducing food waste
We met with several expats in the morning, who discussed their decision to develop startups in the Czech Republic. In the afternoon, we visited Albert Food Stores, learning about the grocery chain’s commitment to sustainability through reducing food waste.
“In-house chefs turn food nearing its expiration date into meals, which are sold to employees at reduced rates,” Reyes says. “The chefs never know what ingredients they’ll be working with, but apparently the meals are quite tasty. The chain also operates compost facilities for food waste.”
The trip concluded with a farewell dinner and an invitation for students to reflect on what they had learned in the past week.
“I honestly benefited from every experience on the learning journey, reaffirming my decision to pursue my MBA with an international business focus,” says Thrush. “As an online student, I also enjoyed spending time with other students and professors.”
“If you have the opportunity, take advantage of the MBA program’s study abroad trip,” Munsch says.