College launches Budapest branch for economics

December 15, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Before Hungarian Education Administrator Ferenc Somogyi participated in this morning's formal announcement of Western Maryland College's satellite branch in Budapest, he visited the Westminster campus to gain a fresh perspective on a recent development in the changing face of Eastern Europe.

"I think the college in its entirety will strongly promote the success of this project," said Dr. Somogyi, the program director for WMC-Budapest. "The expectation is to have together the European culture and knowledge, and to have the American way in business."

Today's announcement, ceremonial contract signing and reception at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., are neither the beginning nor the end of the planning part of the project.

WMC President Robert H. Chambers signed a contract in Budapest two months ago with College International-Budapest, a European educational organization that coordinates international academic programs, to offer students in Eastern and Central Europe a four-year, undergraduate program in business administration and economics. Western Maryland College is the only private college to take part in such a project, Dr. Chambers said.

"I'm one of those people who believe your education is not complete until you experience some other culture," Dr. Chambers said.

Students in the program will study in Budapest for the first two years and transfer to the college's Westminster campus to complete their junior and senior years.

The classes in Hungary, which include principles of economics, communication skills and international economics, will be taught in English by faculty members from the U.S. and Hungarian university and business communities.

Janos Szirmai, the director of College International, said that when he and his colleagues began their search in February for an overseas college with which to form a partnership, their prior experience with U.S. colleges guided their search.

"We were looking for a good quality institution," Mr. Szirmai said. "We have had experience with American higher education before, and we realized that there are some colleges in the United States that are much behind European education."

Dr. Somogyi agreed, saying they also had sought an American counterpart that would envision the possibilities rather than take a "bureaucratic approach" to the project.

"It requires a great deal of imagination and readiness not to be bogged down with details," Dr. Somogyi said.

One important factor was the need to support College International's plan to teach students about business as a way of preparing them to move into the global marketplace.

"For a small country, it is essential to see the broader context. We are not acting as an isolated unit," Mr. Szirmai said. "We are acting to become an international unit."

Mr. Szirmai, Dr. Somogyi and the other Hungarian officials involved in the project will be taking many ideas back to the campus in Budapest.

Dr. Somogyi said WMC's landscape and sense of tradition will add as much to the Hungarian students' experience as the school's liberal arts curricula and faculty.

"This system is rather different," Dr. Somogyi said. "The way the campus is organized and the everyday life, than what we have experienced in Hungary.

"It is these things we can see here and take back to give the campus in Hungary the best of everything."

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