Czech Roots in the Lone Star State
The Hlavinka endowment is one of three established at Texas universities by the CEFT. The University of Texas at Austin received the first endowment in the early 1900s and now has a Texas Chair in Czech Studies. The University of North Texas also has a residency and endowment that specifically focus on Czech music.
When initially created, Texas A&M’s endowment funded a two-year fellowship to support a Czech graduate student who was earning a Master of Arts degree in English with an emphasis on American literature. The CEFT is now working with the College of Liberal Arts to reclassify the Hlavinka endowment to bring a visiting Czech scholar to Texas A&M. In addition, the CEFT leadership is organizing a fundraising campaign to create a Czech chair in the College of Liberal Arts.
Tereza Walsbergerová ’20, a fourth-year doctoral student of English at Masaryk University in Brno, is the most recent graduate student to receive support from the Hlavinka endowment. “I’ve always been a bookworm, ever since I was really small, so studying literature felt like a natural choice to me,” the resident of Brno, Czech Republic said. “The reason why I chose to do it in English rather than Czech is that English is, in my opinion, the official language of world pop culture. If you cannot understand and present yourself in English, it can be hard to become a part of important cultural conversations.”
This experience, which was the her first trip to the United States, opened her eyes to the deep Czech influence in Texas. “I decided to come to Texas A&M because it was a phenomenal opportunity for me in terms of my research. I also had not done any study abroad up to that point in my life, so I thought this would be an amazing way to remedy that,” she said. “Additionally, the connection to the Czech community and history really intrigued me. I was really curious about the Czech-American community in Texas and eager to meet some of the senior citizens who still spoke some Czech. It felt like being offered a time capsule in a way.”
This experience also helps these students appreciate the rich history of being an Aggie. “One of the great things about students being able to be here is that the students are able to experience being an Aggie,” said Lynette Urbanovsky ’07, who is on the CEFT Board of Directors and serves as vice chairman for the College of Liberal Arts’ advisory group for the William J. Hlavinka Fellowship. “The visiting Czech students are able to learn about the culture and traditions at Texas A&M University. While in Texas, the Czech Aggie students have been able to experience some of the traditions like Midnight Yell, Texas Aggie Football and Basketball games. Being a former student myself, there is nothing greater than being part of that and seeing the students’ first experience with these Aggie traditions.”