Saturday, May 5, 2012

The View From the Top

A conversation with UNYP General Manager Sotiris Foutsis

By Michal K.

Most UNYP students know General Manager Sotiris Foutsis as the man from Greece who occupies a big office on the fourth floor – and not much more. UNYPRESS paid him a visit to learn more about the man and his hopes and dreams for UNYP. Foutsis proved to be a thoughtful and gracious subject, at one point even providing the interviewer with a pen.  

UNYPRESS: Why did you come all the way from Greece to run a school in Prague?
SOTIRIS FOUTSIS: To put it simply, I was assigned here. I have 10 years of experience in various managerial positions. I worked in our school in Athens, and then they sent me here.

UNYPRESS:  Is it true that you are the son of Elias Foutsis, the man who started the whole New York University empire in Europe? How many universities are there all together?
SF: Yes, that’s true. Right now there are four universities. Along with Prague there is also Belgrade, Tirana and Athens, but we collaborate with many other universities.

UNYPRESS: Do you plan to expand the “lineup” anytime soon?
SF: We are always looking for new possibilities to improve, so it is possible. But right now we are very cautious because of the economic situation in the world.

UNYPRESS: Speaking of improvement, I am sure many students would like to know when we will see the new UNYP building. The rumors have been around for a while now.
With the twins in Berlin
SF: (Laughs) We were very, very close, but due to certain legal and financial aspects the deal broke down. Of course we are still planning it, but don’t expect anything within the next academic year. Maybe the year after that.

UNYPRESS: While we are talking about future plans, what is your vision for UNYP?
SF: (After a pause) My vision has pretty much materialized already. Our aim is to offer  the best, or at least one of the best, universities in the region, which UNYP is. We offer quality education and the success of our alumni is a major indicator. I would still like to improve the internal quality.

UNYPRESS: What do you think sets UNYP apart from other English-language universities in Prague?
SF: I think UNYP is quite unique in what it offers, because for example Prague College is not accredited by the Czech government. We are. And I honestly believe that the quality of education we offer is much better.

UNYPRESS: As good as UNYP may be, in the Czech Republic there is always the stigma of being a private school. Many people say that UNYP is a school for rich kids who don’t have to do anything for their grades because the school just wants their money. What is your reaction to this?
SF: (With emphasis) I challenge anyone to come here and see how we do things; they will see that is not true. Unfortunately, there are many schools which function like that. But we are not one of them. We dismiss a number of students every semester. Many schools don’t do that.

UNYPRESS: I remember on orientation day for new students you said that if we end up in your office, we are in serious trouble. Are you a tough boss?
SF: (Laughs) You would have to ask the employees, but I have a philosophy of a pleasant environment and good teamwork atmosphere. But of course to get thing done, you sometimes need to create some pressure.

UNYPRESS: What has been your biggest challenge so far as general manager of UNYP?
SF: The biggest problem was to change the mentality of the way people perceive UNYP. It has been four a half years since I came here, and it took that long to explain to people that UNYP is an international school. We are not a Czech school.

UNYPRESS: How do you recruit professors?
SF: We try to have international professors. Since Prague has quite a large expat community, it’s not a problem. If we cannot find any here, we try to get people from abroad. We also have professors coming from ESC.

UNYPRESS: On a lighter note, what are your hobbies?
SF: I like any type of sport whenever possible. Many students can see me at UNYP sports events, only there is not that much time because of the kids. I also like movies and traveling.

UNYPRESS: I understand that your family still lives in Greece. How many kids do you have?
SF: My family already moved here. I have three kids.

UNYPRESS: And what is your favorite movie and travel destination?
SF: For the film, Braveheart. But I don’t have a favorite place to go. I like the exploration aspect of traveling.

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