Communication professors visit the Czech Republic

By Amy Bailey
Staff Reporter

Professor Michael Palmer dines aboard a train in the Czech Republic during his recent visit there. / Photo courtesy Michael Palmer

Exciting new opportunities are brewing in the Bryan College international community for the Communications Department. This past semester Professor Michael Palmer and Dr. Randy Hollingsworth each respectively spent a week in the Czech Republic, in the city of Olomouc, as guest lecturers at Palacký University. Dennis Miller, executive director of external communications, arranged these trips.

Through previous projects in the Czech, Miller formed contact with a communications expert and professor at Palacký named Vaclav Rericha. In the past three years, Rericha has visited Bryan College twice. Students in Palmer or Hollingsworth classes during these times may remember his guest lectures.

During the last three years, Rericha has been establishing a communications department at Palacký University. The Czech Republic has endured a tragic history under the reign of communism. Only recently has the country resolved age-old conflicts and adopted democracy. In their newfound rights, the freedom of speech is a fresh concept, leaving students reluctant to speak up. Miller proposed that it would benefit the Palacký Communications Department to get an American perspective on communication and see an example of how Bryan runs its Communications Department.

In their time at Olomouc, Palmer and Hollingsworth gave excerpts of the courses they teach here; for example, “Popular Culture and Communication”, or “Small Group Communication.” They agreed the most interesting classroom experience they had there was teaching in an interpretation class. As they spoke, the students were simultaneously translating the English lecture into Czech at their desk.

Due to the shame culture that has long been bred in Central Europe, students were timid to speak up or show much action beyond listening and taking notes. This is a strong contrast to Bryan’s discussion style classroom setting. Both Palmer and Hollingsworth said this was a strange adjustment, but said that by the end of their time there, they noticed a considerable warming of the student’s demeanor and heightened communication.

Outside of the classroom both had opportunities to explore their surroundings. Palmer, who visited first, decided to avoid the tourist’s version of Olomouc saying, “I wanted to feel the place, instead of just being in a hotel.” In fact, he stayed in a hostel, called “The Wombat.” He spent his free time bonding with the faculty and students and visiting various historical landmarks – doing his best to enjoy the cultural experience.

Dr. Hollingsworth, who was in the Czech over Thanksgiving break and his thirty-first wedding anniversary, brought his wife along on the trip. While he was in the classroom, a student aide showed Mrs. Hollingsworth around the city. After his days of lecturing, they went to Prague, which Dr. Hollingsworth said was the highlight of their trip.

The thrill of this experience is enhanced by the possibility of it becoming a permanent and recurring relationship in the very near future. Palmer and Hollingsworth are in the planning stages of developing an ongoing connection between the communication departments at Bryan and Palacký. This relationship would involve two-way exchanges of professors and students.

“I think the reason this connection is important, academically and culturally, is because we’re living in a more global environment,” Miller added. “People are becoming increasingly connected globally and for people to be successful, cross-culturally, they have to be able to communicate … The idea of connecting communications departments from different parts of the world potentially has great value.”