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Nov. 21, 2000
OSWEGO -- When Professor Renata Prucklova goes back to her home campus in the Czech Republic after a semester at Oswego State, she will take some things with her: the memories of fall foliage and the mist off Niagara Falls, a better understanding of nontraditional students and some new views about classroom teaching.
Prucklova, who teaches English and Latin at Brno's Masaryk University, is at Oswego State as part of an exchange program. Shelly Ekhtiar of the Oswego English department traveled to Brno.
At Oswego, Prucklova is teaching 18th century British literature, a different experience from her usual classes schooling business students in English and future doctors in Latin.
While the Oswego campus differs from her urban university with six faculties scattered throughout Brno, she says students are not that much different on either side of the ocean.
She was impressed with Oswego's non-traditional students. Since about 99 percent of Masaryk students are of traditional age, she was "quite surprised" at how well the non-trads did in their classes, despite juggling family and jobs.
Masaryk University dates back to the beginnings of the Czech Republic in 1918. It was named after patriot Tomas Garrique Masaryk. When the Communists came into power, the institution's name was changed to Jan Evangelista Purkyne, after a Czech scientist. After the Velvet Revolution deposed the Communists in 1989, the name was changed back.
Prucklova took her undergraduate degree at Masaryk's faculty of arts and did graduate work at the Institute of Classical Studies at the Academy of Sciences in Prague. She returned to her alma mater to teach in 1990, after the revolution.
She says the relationships between students and faculty and between faculty and administrators are more informal in America. "In my country, talking to a dean is like talking to a god," she says. "We have to say 'Mr. Dean.' It doesn't create a friendly atmosphere." Many teachers also require more formal address from their students, although it all depends on the professor, she says.
Students in the Czech Republic pay no tuition -- just room and board, which is cheap, according to Prucklova. "It is fair and good for everyone to be given a chance," she says.
The system may not last long. Already the governing body is debating doing away with the free tuition system, with opponents arguing that a few talented people can study at the expense of everyone.
Prucklova likes the fact that at Oswego students are "more motivated to express themselves." She says she will try to incorporate some of the things she learned about teaching at Oswego into her classes back home.
Prucklova says she enjoyed the fall foliage -- leaves in her country do not change to such hues. "One of my strongest experiences here was a trip to Niagara Falls," she says. "Seeing the mighty water and feeling the mist." She hopes to take her 14-year-old daughter Aneta to see the falls.
Prucklova says she loves ice hockey and looks forward to seeing two of her countrymen -- Buffalo's Dominik Hasek and Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr -- face each other in a December game.
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