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Smeal Executive MBA Global Immersion Provides Insight into Czech Republic Business Environment

Earlier this year, second-year students in the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program traveled to Prague for a weeklong immersion into the business environment and culture of the Czech Republic.
June 20, 2014

Students visit a company in the Czech Republic
Students visit BENEŠ a LÁT, a foundry and machineworks company in the Czech Republic

Earlier this year, second-year students in the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program traveled to Prague for a weeklong immersion into the business environment and culture of the Czech Republic.

The EMBA global immersion trip serves as a capstone experience for students, providing them the opportunity to fit together all the lessons they’ve learned and apply them toward understanding the business and economic situation of another country.

“One of the best things about the program is the environment of learning from each other, and that was really reinforced on the immersion trip.”

The trip began with a presentation on the socioeconomic situation in the Czech Republic and a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities of doing business there. The rest of the agenda included a mix of company visits and cultural activities.

“Our goal is to truly immerse students in the business and cultural aspects of the country,” said Kara Keenan, managing director of the EMBA Program. “Through a series of cultural activities and company visits, we provided students with a first-hand glimpse of the unique business environment in the Czech Republic.”

Over the course of the week, students visited a total of seven companies, running the gamut from Czech-owned and operated businesses to multinationals and in between.

Through these visits, students received a unique Czech business perspective on the financial crisis, marketing strategies in the region, opportunities for foreign investment and entrepreneurship, and the country’s role in global supply chain management.

A member of the European Union for only the past decade, the Czech Republic is, in many ways, still an emerging economy.

“On the surface, particularly in the urban areas, the environment looks very similar to that of the U.S.,” said class of 2014 student Jim Rygalski, who works as a plant manager for Sellars Absorbent Materials, Inc. “But when you really dig in, you find that it’s very much an emerging economy in that it has yet to realize its full potential.”

Financial systems, in particular, are still developing there, says Rygalski, and have yet to truly earn the people’s trust.

“Only about 80-85 percent of businesses accept credit cards,” he said. “It’s still very much a cash transaction economy, especially outside of the urban areas.”

The trip was the highlight of the EMBA Program for Rygalski, who says he sought an MBA to further develop both professionally and personally.

“One of the best things about the program is the environment of learning from each other, and that was really reinforced on the immersion trip,” said Rygalski.

He continued, “The EMBA Program was one of the biggest challenges of my life, but also one of the most rewarding.”

About the Smeal Executive MBA Program
The Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program provides working professionals with the learning, connections, resources, and experiences to accelerate their careers. The 21-month program features personalized executive coaching, intensive communication training, a weeklong international residency experience, and coursework focused on the unique challenges of the students’ firms. Classes are held on alternating weekends at the ACE Conference Center in suburban Philadelphia. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/execmba.

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