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The 44 members of the Professional MBA Program Class of 2015 at Mays Business School spread some Aggie spirit while gaining international experiences this summer. The class visited Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic for the one-week International Business Policy course, required to be taken abroad during the summer between the first and second years.
The goal is for the class members to bond with one another, start relationships with people in the area they visit and learn how business differs in various parts of the world. The class members attended cultural events, visited eight companies, heard eight entrepreneur pitches and participated in two case studies.

While in Prague, the class members partnered with Orbi Pontes (Czech for “Bridges to the World”), which works with various MBA students from the U.S. It gives the students a chance to meet Czech people with hearing impairments, helps them better understand the “Czech deaf world” and allows them to witness how the Czech society helps people with hearing impairments.
Through Orbi Pontes, the students were able to help the Czech hearing-impaired community by spending a day volunteering and fundraising at Ticha Kavarna, Czech for “Silent Café.” The cafe is designed to be run by the hearing-impaired for the hearing-impaired.

The class raised $500, which was matched by International Study Programs, the program’s overseas partner. More important, said Professional MBA Program Director Mike Alexander, the students set an example of selfless service — one of the Aggie Core Values. He stated in an email to the class that their volunteerism, time, interest and donations made an impact on Ticha Kavarna. “Thank you for your trust. For diving in. Learning about the educational efforts for the hearing regarding the hearing impaired in the Czech Republic. And for giving with your heart, hands, and wallets.”
Brent Prigge, a student who attended the trip, recalls what an amazing atmosphere the café offered. “The Deaf culture is a fringe group in most of the world because of the inherent language barrier, but Ticha Kavarna helps to bridge that gap and show average people the amazing things that the deaf have to offer.”

The class was split into four smaller groups and paired with Czech sign language teachers and interpreters. They travelled across Prague learning Czech Sign Language and distributing pamphlets to commuters in the hopes of bringing Ticha Kavarna some new business.

“The opportunity that our class had to learn about the Deaf culture and to provide a small service for them as well was an affirming experience,” Prigge says. “Knowing that our trip was able to serve more than the needs of our classmates, even in such a small capacity, made the trip that much more valuable.”

Another student, Hank (Henry) T. Hunt, said working with the Prague Deaf community provided a rewarding opportunity to help others while understanding their challenges better and experiencing life outside the tourist area. “I thought of my hearing-impaired niece who did well in Texas public schools, though often smiling and nodding when unable to understand speakers,” he said. “My inability to speak Czech had me behaving the same way, frustrated and embarrassed at not being able to express what I wanted to say or to understand others.”

Hunt said Renata Skopkova and the other Orbi Pontes teachers helped him realize his communication struggle was small compared to obstacles constantly facing the deaf in any country. “I understand the usefulness and respectfulness of learning to say important basic phrases in other languages, whether it is Czech or signing.”

The Orbi Pontes teachers, who taught the Aggies some sign language while riding on the subway, explained they were helping just by signing in public. “Our presence helped create positive interest in signing and integrate the hearing and Deaf communities. Our task of handing out flyers helped me overcome some of my own social anxiety: if I can promote an organization in a foreign language on a subway platform deep in a former Soviet Bloc country, then promoting back home in Texas should be easy!”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.