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Efforts in Europe yield success

RIT is sharing new-world educational approaches with an old world hungry for change.

RIT's American College of Management and Technology in Croatia conferred 214 two-year degrees and 51 bachelor's degrees in early June. Since it opened in 1997, the college's total enrollment has grown to 600. Also in June, 17 students were awarded M.B.A. degrees at RIT's U.S. Business School in Prague, and about 400 students have completed the M.B.A. program since it opened in 1990.

RIT's efforts in Central and Eastern Europe have proven successful on many levels. "This is an important part of the world," notes Thomas Hopkins, dean of the College of Business and president of the school in Prague. "We're helping the economy in an area that was formerly behind the iron curtain. I see our program as being a connector between RIT and the global economy."

The U.S. Business School serves a diverse set of students. Most are from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but others are from the United States, Canada, Vietnam, the Netherlands, Russia, Hungary and Bulgaria. Many alumni have risen to leadership positions in business in the Czech Republic, Hopkins says.

In the mid-1990s, the government of the Republic of Croatia sought RIT's help in establishing a program aimed at rebuilding the area's tourism industry, which was nearly destroyed by war following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. RIT's model of career education was especially attractive, says Francis Domoy, chair of the department of hospitality and service management in the College of Applied Science and Technology, which directs the college in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Students from Croatia work on co-op jobs in Europe and the U.S.; in fact, several have worked at RIT. With the country's tourism industry redeveloping, opportunities for jobs after college are expanding in Croatia. The students and their families place a high value on the RIT education," says Domoy. "Dreams are being fulfilled."

"Everybody wants to go there. It's considered the highest quality," says Sandra Sankovic of Dubrovnik, who completed the two-year program in June and is now working toward a four-year degree. After her first year at the college, Sankovic was accepted for a one-year co-op job at Disney World in Florida "one of the most amazing experiences of my life." She spent this summer working in RIT's food service department.

In high school, Sankovic thought about medical school or a career in management. "Then I heard about the American College of Management and Technology. It was different. They were stressing creativity, the opportunity to learn new ideas."

The co-op experiences and the hands-on, practical approaches have prepared her well for a career in tourism management, she believes. Already, the school and its students are getting attention from companies within Croatia, as well as international companies such as Disney and Coca-Cola.

"We are building a reputation a good one," she says.

RIT's efforts in Prague and Dubrovnik have an important benefit back home. A growing number of RIT faculty have taught in Prague and Croatia, and they return with a new perspective. "Students here gain from that," notes Hopkins.

"It's a very powerful experience," adds Domoy.

The success of these programs is leading to other opportunities in the area.

"We believe we have a great deal to offer," says Domoy. "We can contribute to their success and to ours."