Jan Stejskal: "Our Graduates are our Best Promotion"

20. 7. 2020

He has been the Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Administration since January. He has now four years to fulfil his visions. With a purely women's team of vice-deans, he would like to continue the work of his predecessors. Jan Stejskal, 40, would also like to strengthen students' creative thinking, communicate better with university students and academics, and base quality research on doctoral students.

You're a boy scout. Will you apply the principles of Scouting in the management of the faculty?

Of course, I will. It may sound a bit funny, but Scouting has given me a lot that I can use in my dean's position. While volunteering in Scouting, I was able to try a lot of things. It's like being in an imaginary lab of life. I dealt with people, I had to motivate them, coordinate volunteers to whom I could not give money. I resolved conflicts, but I also appeared in public. I had to be able to praise, but also reward. I dealt with organizational and legal matters… It gives you a great preparation for life.

By the way, I apply the principles of cooperation in Scout groups, for example, when working with doctoral students. Older and more experienced doctoral students help younger ones in more difficult situations while facing various challenges together. Communicate, help and trust - these are very important principles.

So, when you accepted the candidacy, you were simply not afraid of some things.

I wasn’t. I was greatly helped in that position by the Academic Senate, which I have chaired for the last two years. I have gained a great insight into the issue. In addition, I still do science, I teach, I lead doctoral students, I'm simply still where the action is. The work of the dean is not that different, it is "just" that you have to manage and control everything around you.

You praised the previous Executive Board. What are your plans with the faculty?

With my team, I would like to build on the work of my predecessors. We can't turn the locomotive and go in another direction now. I would like to continue to fulfil and set other higher goals. We need to clearly define the direction the faculty will take and how to achieve these goals. I have no illusions that I will come up with everything with my team. That's why I want to communicate with employees to get more ideas and feedback from them. Talk to them about what is bothering them, what would help them to do their job with even greater commitment and gusto.

What is the feedback from students? There are not many "marks" in the Stag to evaluate teaching and teachers.

We would like to see this form of feedback, too. We have an evaluation of the quality of teaching, but it is true that few students respond. For us, this sample is completely unrepresentative. If only five students from a year write their opinion and the other hundred are silent, you cannot make any major decisions and changes. We would like to continue with the tools that are available here, but we want to improve them. A major failure is that we know about a lot of things, but we have nothing to substantiate them. Managerial decisions are then made with difficulty, it's more like a blind man's buff.

How can you improve teaching in cooperation with students?

For example, we will introduce year group teachers. It is not a new idea; it was said years ago that in each year there will be an academic to whom students will be able to turn with their study problems. But this intention was never realized. The previous vice-dean met with our students twice a semester and talked to them about what was bothering them. He introduced an excellent communication tool, which we are continuing to use. But students solve different problems in each year. Year group teachers will meet with students as needed, there will be a direct line of communication. I think it is often enough to troubleshoot small things that will help to improve a lot.

What do you mean, can you give any examples?

I would like see more extracurricular internships for students. This is not a new thing, but we want to give it more emphasis. In almost all of our study programs, students go to internships in companies and organizations. Such practice is not enough for them to get acquainted with the field. We have a lot of cooperating organizations and companies; we negotiate with representatives from public administration and we would like to come up with a way to extend and improve the experience.

My idea is that students would not go to a brigade, where they put goods on the shelves, but that they would go to an internship two days a week for half a year, for example. In this way, they will gain more insight into the issue. On this basis, an employment relationship or a basis for writing a bachelor's or master's thesis can be created. The organization of such internships must take place in cooperation with the company, faculty and student. It won't be easy, but if we look for ways, we'll definitely figure out how.

One of your visions is that you would like to strengthen students' creative and critical thinking. So, are you sure that today's university students have trouble formulating ideas and their own opinions?

Yes. I draw on my own practice and seminars. It is easier for students to prepare a seminar paper, which is a compilation of several sources or mathematical exercises. But we want to ask students questions, discuss with them, guide them to find solutions. They will be more successful on the labour market if, in addition to accurate calculations, they can also come up with a solution, which they then successfully substantiate and defend, for example, before the management of the company. 

Does it make sense to assign seminar papers in each subject?

That’s another problem. It happens that only ex post do we find out that students cannot work on a thesis and learn for finals, because they are finishing several seminar papers. Course supervisors should meet at the beginning of the semester and define what they will do in the next six months. It is better to work on year projects, for example, than to work on several seminar papers. Therefore, it is important to communicate with teachers across courses.

Are you going to strengthen the promotion towards the applicants for study?

There has also been promotion here, but it needs to be precisely targeted. The moment we know where we are going, what group we want to reach, then it is easier to do the whole promotion. If we want to fill the first-year classes, we must focus on our presentation in secondary schools so that they know about us. By the way, our best promotion is a satisfied graduate, a sort of "walking banner". What we have taught them here is to their profit. However, our targeted advertising must be conducted in the language of teenagers who could be our students.

We have found that young people already communicate very poorly with us via e-mail. They don't send them that much anymore, often they can't even write an e-mail the way we expect it. They are in contact only through social networks and are able to send messages very quickly. They also don't want to click through to the information too much, and they want to have the most important thing in the top positions, right in front of their eyes.

The faculty now has approximately 1,700 students. Most are bachelors, followed by masters. What about doctoral students?

Of course, we would like to see more of them here. We have very close, one could say family relationships with doctoral students. The scientific performance of the faculties is based on them, the Western world is already showing that to us. The doctoral student should have space for scientific work, should be involved in the research and motivated to complete the dissertation.

It hasn't been the case so far?

Not quite. The doctoral students felt that they were at the lowest level. They get, as they say, the worst job. However, they should be partners in scientific teams and, together with more experienced colleagues, move science forward in the workplace.

You have mentioned the family environment. That's an advantage for your faculty, isn't it?

When you compare it with other faculties, with ten thousand students for example, you cannot feel any closeness in such an environment. You are just a number in a list. And thanks to GDPR, you don't even have a name, no one even knows if you're a man or a woman. Only absolute soloists can enjoy a school with a large number of students. But if you want to collaborate more, discuss, you prefer a family environment. We want to provide a suitable environment for students, but again we do not want to spoon-feed them. They will simply be part of a large faculty family. That’s what makes us different.

You have chosen four women for your team. Was it an intention?

No, it happened by coincidence. I always try to surround myself with people who know how to do their job. I also practiced this with the Scouts. I want to have co-workers in the team who understand an area better than I do. I try to find people I will trust and I will be sure that they can do things better and that our cooperation will work well. It is important for me that the Vice-Dean for Education be able to communicate with students. That's why I chose Associate Professor Jitka Komárková, who can talk to students and is always looking for a win-win solution.

The Vice-Dean for Research and Development should not be the best scientist at the faculty. It is a managerial position in which you must have sufficient competencies and contacts to be able to negotiate cooperation at the level of scientific boards and manage habilitation processes. Renáta Myšková, Dean Emeritus of our faculty, has extensive experience in this field.

The Vice-Dean for External Affairs and Development is the lawyer Jana Janderová, who speaks perfect English, has a clear idea of the development of the faculty and its internationalization, and is able to find partners for cooperation in various countries. The Vice-Dean for Internal Development is Liběna Černohorská, who has been working at the faculty for a long time and knows in detail the individual processes taking place at the faculty. All four women have a high erudition for their work.

Will you continue to teach?

Of course, I will teach, gladly. It is an essential part of my work. I do not want to lose contact with students and I also want to continue to supervise doctoral students. I also want to deal with science, and do pedagogy at the same time. I will do everything to such an extent that I can responsibly fulfil the role of the Dean of the faculty. For the next three years, I have won a GACR project. There, I will give preference to young colleagues who will complete the research.

Are you working on a new publication that will again be successful abroad?

A new book is being created, this time in Czech. The publications I have participated in so far were from the field of public economics, non-profit organizations and public services, the topic of public choice was missing. In the Czech environment, this issue has not yet been dealt with in such detail. I am working on the book with top Czech economists and colleagues from abroad. It should come out before the holidays. It will be one of my goals accomplished.

doc. Ing. Jan Stejskal, Ph.D. (*1980)

  • Works at the Institute of Economic Sciences, Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Pardubice.
  • Teaches courses from the fields of public economics, public sector economics and public services.
  • He has long been dealing with public and regional economics, focusing on efficiency issues, specifically the theory of collective consumption goods (the problem of public service value and the effectiveness of public policies in creating innovations of public goods and services with an impact on economic and social development).
  • He is the author of many monographs and dozens of publications in journals and international scientific conferences.
  • He is a lifelong Boy Scout; without this philosophy of life he cannot imagine his next life.
  • He likes to travel to exotic countries, loves mountain hiking, culture and cooking.
TEXT: Věra Přibylová/PHOTO: Adrián Zeiner