On Monday 17 May, U.S. Ambassador Bijan Sabet left Prague for the first time since the beginning of his tenure in the Czech Republic. He went to Brno to visit Masaryk University. Bijan Sabet was sworn in the USA as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Czech Republic last December. He arrived in the Czech Republic on 31 January and presented his credentials to the Czech President in mid-February this year.
The meeting between Ambassador Sabet and the MU management mainly focused on cooperation with American universities and the participation of students and academics in prestigious scholarship programmes. The U.S. Ambassador, who has spent much of his career helping technology entrepreneurs realise their potential and build influential global companies, was also interested in CEITEC and visited Masaryk University’s state-of-the-art pharmaceutical facility, the BioPharma Hub, which will become a unique teaching and research space serving the MU Faculties of Pharmacy, Medicine and Science. He was equally interested in the work of MUNI HELPS, the MU volunteer centre.
Among the scholarship programmes discussed were the Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). In addition to Bijan Sabet and his wife, the chair of the Czech IVLP Alumni Club, Zuzana Pastrňáková, also accepted the invitation.
“On the occasion of the visit of the U.S. Ambassador Bijan Sabet, the MU management announced its intention to establish a Fulbright Alumni Club at Masaryk University,” said Vice-Rector for Internationalisation Břetislav Dančák. The membership of the club will consist of researchers and educators who have travelled to the USA in the past as part of the Fulbright programme. The project to establish the club will be further developed by MU management at a follow-up meeting with Fulbright Commission Director Hana Ripková. More than 120 MU researchers and students from Czechia and Slovakia have visited the United States during the programme’s existence, and 87 American students and researchers have been awarded scholarships at Masaryk University.
Alumni of the Fulbright Program include many MU researchers, teachers and PhD students, while Rector Martin Bareš and Vice-Rector Břetislav Dančák have both studied in the USA for some time. In the 2017/2018 academic year, the Proshek-Fulbright Scholarship for Doctors was awarded to Marek Joukal, Head of the Department of Anatomy at the MU Faculty of Medicine, and in 2019, Roman Baláž, Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work of the MU Faculty of Social Studies (FSS), completed a research fellowship at Boston University. Other Fulbright alumni include Petr Suchý, Vice-Dean for Internationalisation and Student Affairs at FSS, who leads the course How do they see us: the Czech Republic and its European Partners, in which students meet top international diplomats; Lenka Waschková Císařová, Head of the Department of Media Studies and Journalism; and Filip Černoch from the Department of International Relations and European Studies. Karel Pančocha, Head of the Institute for Research in Inclusive Education at the Faculty of Education, has spent several months at Wright State University; and Markéta Munzarová, Vice-Dean for Cooperation with Secondary Schools, Talent Management, Social Affairs and Lifelong Learning at the Faculty of Science, is also an alumnus of the scholarship programme.
In honour of U.S. Ambassador Bijan Sabet, a reception was held at the Academic Club, where some of the “Fulbrighters”, as the graduates of the Fulbright Program are called in America, gathered. The social gathering also included alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program, which introduces participants to the diversity and wide range of experiences found in American political, economic, social and cultural life.
The Fulbright Commission, which has been present in the Czech Republic for thirty years, was established and operates under an intergovernmental agreement between the Czech Republic and the United States to promote educational, scientific, and cultural exchanges. The prestigious Fulbright Program is funded by the Czech and U.S. governments and enables Czech citizens to study, conduct research, or teach in the United States. Czech students, researchers, university professors, teachers, as well as professionals working in the fields of medicine, public administration and the non-profit sector, can receive financial support for their study, research and teaching placements in the United States through various scholarship programmes. Scholarships for the academic year 2024/2025 were announced on 31 March.