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International Perspective

09/29/2010

As the world becomes smaller with increasing globalization, Petra Hejnova, an assistant professor of political science and public policy, expands MCLA students' vision beyond the United States.

Hejnova (pictured right, second from the left in the front row) recently returned from Prague in the Czech Republic, where she instructed young women from throughout the world at the Women and Leadership Program organized by Charles University in Prague and by the Global Institute on Leadership and Civic Development of Bloomington, Ind.

She brings a global perspective to her classroom.

"I teach classes that look at issues like health care or retirement, pensions, unemployment policy around the world, because I do think it's really interesting," she said. "It's really hard to just study about the U.S. without learning what's happening in other countries."

While in her native Czech Republic over the summer, Hejnova taught women from nine countries, including Hungary, Columbia, Mexico, Canada, Australia and the U.S.  Back at MCLA this semester, she is teaching "Comparative Government and Public Policy," "Legacies of Communism" and "Living Globally," where students are learning about global issues as they study the practices of other countries.

Hejnova said public policy in that country is very much influenced by what happens in the U.S.

"The reason is kind of simple. Under Communism, which ended in 1989, social science really wasn't something that you could study. So, once the revolution took place in '89, we had to rebuild all of these social sciences, academic disciplines. It was only natural that people reached out for textbooks from western countries such as Australia, the United States or those in Western Europe."

She recently published an article, "Beyond Dark and Bright: Towards a More Holistic Understanding of Inter-Group Networks," in the Public Administration journal. According to Hejnova, networks are an increasingly popular organizational form for structuring human activities, and exist in a variety of fields, including sociology, economics, public administration, criminology, political science and international security.

"Countries like Cuba have these networks of political prisoners and dissidents who are trying to oppose the regime. Those networks look very much like the ones used by terrorists, really, although nobody really talks about them or makes that connection," Hejnova said. "That's where the article all started."

According to Hejnova, thus far, little has been done to systematically examine the similarities, differences, and connections between network forms of organization across different academic disciplines.

"One of the problems with academic disciplines today is that people are so sort of drowned in their own stuff that they don't pay attention to what is happening in the other fields and it's a real shame," she said. "I'm hoping that using a more interdisciplinary approach will help people connect to different fields and they'll be able to improve their own work."

In the future, Hejnova expects to teach a class at MCLA that will examine different types of networks, including those used by terrorists and criminals.

Hejnova earned her bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Charles University, as well as a second master's degree from Syracuse University in New York, where she is in the process of completing her Ph.D.