Mount Mercy Awarded Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence

The addition of a Fulbright Scholar-in- Residence for the Fall 2009 and Winter 2010 semesters will add to Mount Mercy’s unique blend of international students and faculty. Dr. Libor Práger, a professor at Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, will teach English and film studies courses.

The Fulbright Board awards approximately 35 Scholar-in-Residence grants each year to United States colleges and universities, making Mount Mercy one of the few colleges fortunate enough to benefit from this important international exchange. In addition to teaching courses, Práger will give campus-wide and community lectures, help initiate international programs and contribute to curriculum development.

Práger’s road to Mount Mercy as a Scholarin- Residence is a journey that began 20 years ago. The partnership between Palacky University and Mount Mercy is one that involves both academic and personal connections.

Mount Mercy Professor of English Dr. Jim Grove taught at Palacky University in 1989 as part of an institutional teaching exchange program. Grove first knew Práger as a student, and immediately realized the young man held promise and would benefit from studying in America. Together with Dr. Josef Jarab, then rector of Palacky University, an international exchange program was established that would allow Práger to study at Mount Mercy. The exchange program continues today, with two Mount Mercy students studying at Palacky University and two Palacky University students studying at Mount Mercy each year.

Práger was one of the program’s first participants. “I knew he would be wonderful here,” says Grove. “He was really intelligent, he liked America, and he was confident. I knew he would adapt well.” Práger journeyed to Mount Mercy in January 1991 and stayed until August, taking a literature course taught by Grove and becoming one of Mount Mercy’s first international exchange students.

While he was a student at Palacky University, Práger witnessed first-hand and participated in the historic events that led to the downfall of communism in the Eastern Bloc nation. Students at Palacky were influential during the historic Velvet Revolution, a non-violent uprising in Czechoslovakia that saw the overthrow of the communist government in 1989. Palacky students led a peaceful demonstration that sparked other non-violent protests around Czechoslovakia, eventually resulting in the communist party relinquishing power back to the people. During the revolution, Práger was one of five student “strike leaders” who represented the student population as they presented their demands to the communist party. The endeavor required boldness and perseverance, and Grove remembers Práger exhibited both. “He showed courage in a position that most people have never been in,” says Grove. “It’s not often to have a 20-year anniversary of a historic revolution and to actually have a person at Mount Mercy who was part of that revolution.”

Práger now serves as a professor at Palacky University in the department of English and American studies. Práger will teach two courses in the fall and co-teach with Grove during Winter term 2010. “Coming from a country that went from communism to a democratic society, Dr. Práger will have a unique perspective to bring to Mount Mercy’s classrooms,” says Director of International Programs Catharine Cashner. “His first-hand experience with the Velvet Revolution will provide students with knowledge and understanding that would not have been possible otherwise, giving them a first-hand view of historical events.”