In August 2018, Czech economist and international scholar, Lubomír Lízal, assumed his position as the new President of Anglo-American University.
Lízal was chosen by the AAU Board of Trustees to replace 2017/2018 Interim President, Petr Jan Pajas. Let’s reflect on his first year as leader of the oldest private university in the Czech Republic.
Were there any unexpected challenges or surprises you encountered upon becoming president of AAU?
Yes, I have to say there have been. But let me start from the areas where there weren’t any surprises and that was the academic quality. So when I came in I was sort of just confirming what I had seen from the outside, that the institution is academically well-established and it's on a track toward research so that was one aspect where I felt it was doing great. Certain areas of the school are fixed, like the administration etc. and that does not change no matter how big or small you are. A challenge that we face as a non-profit institution is that the amount of resources you can invest into the student education does heavily depend on the thriving student body. Also, due to the fact that we have U.S. and Czech accreditation, while it’s extremely beneficial it’s also very administratively demanding. Anything we do must meet both U.S. and European standards so it requires a lot of planning and combining to do things in the right way so they fly.
What are the areas that AAU should focus on developing in the future?
One thing is organic growth, not only in the number of students but in trying new things and new programs. Very basically I see that the market for our institution is somehow creating an opportunity to bridge different areas. Let me use an example that might serve well, in the IT industry there is a big discussion about moving from artificial intelligence to emotional intelligence, and to be able to do that you have to have not only education in IT, but also education in the humanities to understand some of the processes. So while I don’t think this is something we will solve in the very near future, it shows where we can find areas to bridge the technical advances of society with our strength in the humanities.
So do you ever envision AAU adding more technical programs?
No, no, I think we should develop our strengths and rather create partnerships with technical programs. While more technical programs focus on finding, creating and implementing the best and newest technologies, those technologies mean nothing if they are not economically sound, ethically responsible and employable at market conditions. That is where AAU can utilize our core strengths and offer those strengths to complement more technical partners.
Do you have a favorite moment from the past academic year?
Hmm, I think it’s actually something which is always recurring, and it’s whenever we have visitors and I take them to the balcony. I show them the view of Prague castle and you know, we may have a small campus but you can clearly see that it’s a unique environment and here students can basically go through a living history of Prague. You can walk across the street and see pieces of history, different styles of architecture, and that’s something which is extremely valuable and being able to show visitors first hand, it really underlines what we are telling people about the quality of education here.
What are you most looking forward to in the next academic year?
Well, simply I would say I’m looking forward to the new students. This is something that I consider to be one of the greatest benefits of being in academia. As a teacher, you are always in contact with the young generation and it’s much easier to adapt to new technologies and adopt the changing views in society because you basically see it first hand. Rather than being out of academia and suddenly realizing, oh the world has changed- how did it happen?
So where do you see AAU in 5 years?
Well, what I would like to see in a 5-year window is that we will be moving forward in creating more variety in our programs, which should also attract students in areas that we do not have these days. Also, I think that academic institutions are by nature somehow conservative, but on the other hand too much conservatism means you might miss the train of the ever-changing world around you, so I see AAU hopefully following the development of the world around us and allowing students to get an education in the areas that are just emerging so they can be prepared for the world they are entering. I think that’s crucial for the success of the university and for the success of our alumnus as well.
As of next academic year AAU is now offering housing for it’s students, how do you think that will affect student life?
I think it will have two effects, one is that it will help build more community among the students, especially for the freshmen. It’s something that builds relationships, but on the other hand, also I think it helps the university when viewed from the outside. You know when you are deciding about university it’s a big change in your life and while you make that decision yourself, you are also typically discussing this with your parents, and both of you would like to know that the choice you have made is the right one- not only in terms of the education but in terms of the environment you are going to. The dorms will help to show that if you feel that there is a benefit in living within university accommodation, for example not worrying about utilities or other stuff then yes we offer it. It is broadening the choice that students have and I think that’s important. If you want to live on your own, perfect it’s still an option, but on the other hand, if you feel that going to a new school, a new city and thinking about a new place to live is just too much to handle all at once then that is where this will be a great benefit.
What do you do to relax around campus?
Well sometimes I might go for a coffee at Café des Taxis but if I really want to relax I go for a walk, for example to Kampa Park or somewhere close. I try to do it in every job I’ve had- to go for a walk, it’s refreshing, it clears the head and it has the benefit of getting out of the work environment.
What would you say to a student who wishes to take up a leadership position like you later in his/her career? Any advice?
I think the best advice is to try to be best at whatever you do, and you should be prepared that chances come unexpectedly. I think the toughest part of aspiring to be a leader or simply being successful is realizing that chances are always going around you. You have to work hard, of course, but sometimes you need a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time and most importantly to be the right person for the job.
Publication date: May 27, 2019