I'm proud of what has the faculty reached, says the co-founder of FEA

30 Apr 2021 Ekonomicko-správní fakulta MU

The Faculty of Economics and Administration will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September this year. Professor Ladislav Blažek not only participated in its establishment, but also became its first Dean. There was another first for him at the beginning of April, when the Rector appointed him the first Professor Emeritus of the faculty. "I really appreciate it and I would like to use it to maintain relationships with the faculty in the future," says Professor Blažek, who spent some time with us recalling the events of thirty years ago and speaking about how he spends his free time.

What is your nicest memory or experience associated with the faculty?
I have gained a lot of experiences over the thirty years. I have forgotten many of them and of the other ones none really stands out. I have recently looked back on my thirty-year career, recapitulating it. I realized that by establishing the faculty, we created a quality creative environment for hundreds of employees and thousands of students, and gave them the opportunity to learn and develop. That is a great value. And knowing it seems to me to be the greatest experience connecting me to the faculty.

And when you look back on those thirty years, can you identify any significant events in the development of the faculty that shaped it into its current form?
I do not dare name any clear milestones. But of course, the development has been remarkable, continuous, and progressive. Teachers’ qualification and the quality of teaching has been increasing steadily. We began to engage in research at the international level and also to publish in prestigious scientific journals. Today, for example, the study program of economics at our faculty ranks among the top five hundred in the world in terms of quality.

Who came up with the idea to establish the Faculty of Economics and Administration?
The idea originated at two workplaces of Masaryk University, at the Department of Economics and Management of the Non-Production Sphere and at the Department of Economics at the Faculty of Arts. It was clear that after the fall of the communist regime and the transition to the market system there would be an enormous demand for experts.  However, there were almost none at that time in both the professional and academic environments.

What role did you play in the establishment?
I was a member of the group that prepared the establishment of the faculty, both organizationally and professionally.

Were there any problems with the establishment of the faculty?
It is true that not everything went smoothly. Some representatives of the university did not support the establishment of a new faculty, they had doubts about whether there was need for it. At the same time, they perceived the faculty as a competitor. Fortunately, we had the strong support of the then Rector Milan Jelínek, who was fully aware of the importance of the faculty for further development of the university.

The Faculty of Economics and Administration is the first faculty of Masaryk University to have been established after the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Was this fact reflected in any way?
Definitely. Its foundation was carried out with great enthusiasm and spontaneity, which was typical of the then revolutionary period. Moreover, it took less than a year from the initial intention to the establishment of the faculty.

Originally, the faculty was housed in a building on Zelný trh, then, until 1998, in temporary conditions on Antonínská street. Shortly after the faculty had been established, you did not have a suitable building for it. Was it stressful?
The environment was really very unsatisfactory, but we survived. Probably also thanks to the great initial enthusiasm of the entire academic community. The new modern building in Pisárky was a fundamental turnaround for us, which we all welcomed.

Temporary building of the faculty on Antonínská street, today Rector's Office of the Brno University of Technology.

Unsuitable environment of the building at that time.

You were also the first Dean of the faculty. Did your work in the first years of the faculty's existence differ significantly from the deanship later?
It was definitely different, because we virtually started from zero. It was necessary to quickly increase the number of teachers and administrative staff. There was a shortage of skilled workers, so it was not easy. We had to create and subsequently expand the book collection, procure technical equipment. In addition, I dealt with the construction of a new building, the financing of which was not a trivial matter, because the costs ran into hundreds of millions.

Professor Blažek on the occasion of tapping the foundation stone on Lipová street.

Construction of a new faculty building.

Students lack motivation, but we try to help them, says Professor Blažek

Were students interested in applying to the faculty after it had been established?
The interest was enormous. We had to make a selection and we only accepted one in ten applicants. Later, the interest dropped a little. But initially, we really only accepted the best of the best.

Do you feel that students have changed over those 30 years? For example concerning their motivation?
They definitely have. At that time, students were strongly motivated because they knew that the professional sphere lacked experts who would understand the market economy. On top of that, we really took only the best of the best, being admitted to the faculty meant you had to work really hard. Today, graduates can no longer count on finding such highly lucrative jobs as students before. Attractive positions in banks, large industrial companies or, for example, in public administration have already been filled by their predecessors.

Can educators do something about students' lack of motivation?
We try to do that. Teachers need to pay much more attention to the way they teach, and students need to be taken care of. We used to be much more liberal, letting them do everything their way. Today it is different, we take care of students more. And this approach turns out to be fruitful. For example, the quality of diploma theses is much higher than before.

What do you mean by having to take care of students?
We take a more individualized approach to students, we include more teaching aids in our teaching. But most of all, we lead students to being systematic. For example, in diploma theses, we used to let students work on them as they wished. Today, we set the dates for individual stages and consult everything with them more thoroughly.

And do you keep in touch with any students?
There have been thousands of students, so I do not keep in touch with most of them. It is not possible. But some of them sometimes recognize me or greet me, which I am pleased to see. The school stays in touch with some graduates. We involve them in lectures, where they pass on their experience to the students. They can assure them that what is taught at the faculty is well applicable in practice.

The faculty manages to deal with distance teaching well, the quality has not decreased

How many years have you been teaching now?
About thirty. Although I had worked in the academic environment before the establishment of the Faculty of Economics and Administration, I only began teaching when I started working here. Until then, I had primarily focused on research.

Has there been a moment in your career as a university teacher when you were considering quitting?
No, there hasn't. Never.

And why did you decide to stay in the academic environment, was business an option you were tempted to consider?
After graduating, I had a brief span in the professional field. I worked at Kovoprojekta, where I was responsible for designing management systems for industrial companies. I must say that I quite liked the job, but I was still more attracted to teaching. So in 1975 I returned to Brno University of Technology, where I had previously studied, to work in research. Later, I also worked as a researcher at Jan Evangelista Purkyně University, today's Masaryk University.

What do you enjoy about pedagogical work?
It allows me to keep in touch with young people. I have the opportunity to pass on to them my knowledge, and my life experience. That is what makes teaching worthwhile. In addition, teaching at university is unique in that it offers a lot of freedom. Also, you work with adult people with whom communication is different than, for example, with students at secondary school or primary school, where enforcing discipline is an integral part of the job. I wouldn't enjoy that.

How do you evaluate this last year when most of the teaching went online?
It was undoubtedly challenging for both teachers and students. Now, a year later, we have solved most of the problems. I think that remote teaching works well. I can even imagine that certain aspects of online teaching will be integrated in classroom teaching in the future.

What was the transition like for you?
With regard to the planned retirement, I had only a small part-time work commitment last year, and taught only a little. However, I have some experience with remote teaching, and it is mostly positive. I think that the quality of the outcome and teaching itself has not decreased in any way.

Professor Blažek wants to spend time with his family now, but he is not saying goodbye to the faculty

You have published over a hundred publications, you teach, you were a member of several scientific boards. Where do you find the energy and time for all these activities?
I don't really know, the energy kept coming. However, as time went on, it started ebbing away. That's why I retired on March 31st. I have thus terminated my work in all scientific boards and committees.

At the beginning of April, the Rector appointed you Professor Emeritus. What does this mean for you?
I appreciate it. Truly. And I would like to use the emeritus professorships to maintain relationships with the faculty in the future. I would welcome the continuity. Sudden changes are never good.

Can you specify how you want to maintain relationships with the faculty?
For example, I am currently supervising several diploma theses. I would like to continue teaching at least in the form of a few selected lectures. Alternatively, I would also like to be a member of the state final examinations boards.

I know that you are a great athlete. What sports do you do?
Unfortunately, I don't do much sport nowadays because of my age. As an elderly gentleman I try to go hiking, which means I go on some smaller trips and for walks. But as a university student, I used to play basketball and volleyball competitively. I also did a lot of hiking, biking and skiing. I love mountains, hiking in the Alps or in the Caucasus were the highlights of my hiking experience.

Is there a place you like to return to the most?
The Moravian Karst, where I was born. As for foreign destinations, it is the Alps, both Austrian and Italian. For nearly thirty years I used to go skiing to the Sella Ronda area in Italy, I have a lot of nice memories of that.

What are your current plans?
As I have already said, I would like to stay in touch with the scientific community and the faculty. But most of all, I would like to take care of my family now, especially my three grandchildren.

What would your wish the faculty in the future?
Definitely many more achievements, and may it continue to prosper.

The interview with Professor Ladislav Blažek was led by Kristýna Férová, a student at FSS MU.

And what do Professor Blažek´s colleagues from the Department of Corporate Economy recollect?

"I think in case of Professor Blažek what I don't remember is more important than what I remember. Having spent more than ten years at the department with him, I don't remember any of my colleagues or students ever complaining about him. This is a great achievement for a person who headed the department for a decade and taught the main subjects. He has always been able to deal with difficult situations calmly, listen to people and look for compromises." – Jakub Procházka

"We remember his famous quotes - 'kids, don't be silly' or 'kids, it'll be all right´, and also 'I believe it's going to work out fine.'" – Pavla Marciánová, Alena Klapalová, Ondřej Částek

"The imprint of professor´s strong personality remains at the department and the faculty - it is reflected in the behaviour of the people who worked with him. When thinking of him, three words come to my mind - knowledge, decency and humility. He has always been able to stay on top of things, distinguish the important from the unimportant, and remember that in all that work it is the human being who matters most.” – Sylva Žáková Talpová

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