Interview with current vice-dean for internationalization and student affairs Blanka Plasová, Department of Social Politics and Social Work
By Arzu Maharramova, October 2023
As you may or may not know, Faculty of Social Studies has a new vice-dean for internationalization and student affairs. In an exclusive interview, we had the pleasure of getting to know Blanka Plasová, our new Vice Dean, on a personal and professional level. Join us as we explore her proudest moments, her passion for public and social policy, and the exciting vision she brings to our academic community.
1. Can you share an achievement you are particularly proud of? How has it
influenced your career and approach to education?
During my career at FSS, I really needed to see the results of my research and my work in reality.
For example, I'm very proud of my former students. My first lecture in social studies was about ‘work-family balance at the company level’, and I have had this lesson for years. Now, I can meet some students from the past 10 years, and they tell me: " I remember your lesson because you taught this, and I can really implement it in my company." It makes me very happy and I really cherish it.
It is also important to me that I can get these things from research and make it practical to people. And about how it influences my career and approach to education, I would say very strongly because this practical level is important to me. So, I try to make practical things part of my lessons during courses.
2. What exactly got you super interested in Public and Social Policy?
The initial drive for an interest in social studies came when I grew up in the 1990s in a small town on the border with Germany. It was the period after the so-called Velvet Revolution, and a totalitarian state was turning into a democracy. I have seen a lot of massive societal changes, and it has been evident that many people cannot cope with this. For example, in my hometown, there is suddenly a problem of massive prostitution and sex tourism from Germany. I saw these girls and their terrible living conditions, and I asked myself - why is there no support for them here? I just wanted to change it. This was the reason why I first studied social work in my bachelor's degree. During this study, I discovered that I could see some typical problems that kept recurring. Then I started to think about what to do and how to change the conditions that bring these people into trouble. The answer was social policy. And it led me to Brno and the Faculty of Social Studies.
3. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your academic
The biggest challenge for me is trying to combine general expectations for scientific performance (as defined by the science evaluation methodology) and activities and practices that can positively influence the part of the population I focus on in my research, namely parents and mothers and their daily efforts to balance work and family, and of course the work-family policies on company level.
4. What are the most rewarding aspects of your current role as Vice Dean?
As a vice-dean, I now have a unique opportunity to support students and colleagues in something very important for their successful professional careers in today's globalized world, i.e. to gain international experience and thus to not see many things in our everyday life as given or guaranteed. I can remove barriers and obstacles to gaining this valuable experience.
5. How important do you think it is for academics to participate in
international exchange programs and collaborate with scholars from different parts of the world?
I think it's a problem that our perspective is something relevant and valid for everybody. We do it not on purpose. We just have it in our minds and it influences our research ideas and research questions. And if you are connected with other parts of the world, you can see that things are not so easy. Sometimes we talk about one thing, but in the end we find that each of us talks about something different. And this is the reason why it's so important for students, for scientists to have this international experience.
6. What initiatives or programs does the university have in place to attract and
support international students? How do these initiatives enhance the overall student experience?
We do many things: we are active on social networks, university fairs, we have an updated and informative website, our teachers also present our programs in English. Partner universities abroad also help us attract international students. Once the applicants are here, we have a very functional, friendly and open service to support their studies, thanks to my dear colleagues from the International Office and the Study Office and student ambassadors. We also organize various social events, such as barbecues, Christmas parties, trips to the countryside, and more. These social activities help to adapt international students and connect them with local students.
We also have scholarships for our best students, rewarding them for publications in journals and contributions to the university's representation.
7. Can you share any upcoming international speaking engagements or
research collaborations that you have planned?
The nearest event is an international webinar with our partners from Australia from Charles Sturt University. It's going to be about sustainability and volunteerism. This webinar is part of a series we are working on with Charles Sturt University for the second year. Our webinars are usually exciting events with a diverse audience.
8. And finally, do you have any messages for our students?
Take as much as you can from your study program, from your teachers, lessons, research, discussions. This is very fruitful for your future career. So just take it, think about it, introduce some new ideas, and move it forward. As is evident from the current situations in Ukraine and Israel, for example, we need more discussion and negotiation and fewer weapons.
As we wrap up this engaging conversation with Dr. Blanka Plasová, we extend our warmest welcome and best wishes to her in her new role as vice-dean for internationalization and student affairs. We look forward to the positive impact she will undoubtedly make, both on our students' experiences and the broader landscape of our Faculty of Social Studies.