Quinnipiac’s Central European Institute Hosts Annual Executive Retreat and Alumni Gathering in Zebegény

On June 6, 2018 Quinnipiac University’s Central European Institute (CEI) hosted its Annual Executive Retreat and Alumni Gathering in Zebegény at the private home of Christian Sauska. This year, the event celebrated the Hungarian American Business Leaders program’s 11th anniversary and boasted an audience of 250 leaders from domestic and multinational companies, academia, politics, and culture. The Hungary Initiatives Foundation (HIF) renewed its sponsorship of the Program, which helps support young Hungarian leaders in attaining an MBA at Quinnipiac University (QU) and gaining substantive US work experience prior to their return to Hungary.

Each year, the Zebegény gathering serves as a nonpolitical meeting and networking opportunity for those wanting to build a better future for Hungary and the region by helping younger generations through educational and business opportunities in both the US and Europe. The program was established in 2008 and builds into a broader multi-year program that engages a growing alumni and professional business community through alumni activities and other networking and cultural events. As a result, the scholarships are the foundation of CEI’s long-term overarching mission to foster relationships between the US and Hungary.

Last year’s event was the 10th anniversary and focused on how far the programs have come and celebrating its successes. At this year’s event, Chris Ball, honorary consul of Hungary in Connecticut and Széchenyi Chair in Economics and Director of the CEI, looked forward to the future of the Hungarian American Business Leaders Program (HABL) scholarship and the Zebegény Retreat, proposing that:

“We now have a track record of success, but our programs were designed 10 years ago.  It’s time to start with a clean slate and think big. Where can we go from here? How can we help the next generation for the benefit of everyone both here in Hungary and abroad in the United States? Today more than ever we need to strengthen our Transatlantic connections.”

Ball challenged the participants at Zebegény to ask themselves why they come every year and what benefits they derive from participating in the event. Over the coming year, he will reach out to participants and plans to hold feedback and other smaller sessions to work with all the stakeholders to find ways to grow and add value to what has been built up over the past 10 years.

While Ball thanked all the sponsors and partners, he focused especially on the support of HIF and the Sauska Family, who owns and manages the Zebegény estate:

“We are especially thankful for the annual support our scholars receive from the HIF and their direct support for our Zebegény event itself this year as well.  We look forward to working with them going forward to explore ways that we can build bridges between Hungary and the United States together, one person at a time.”

Quinnipiac MBA Alumni

HIF has been a strong supporter of the scholarships – contributing $26,000 this year -, because it sees quality leadership with good intentions by the side of Quinnipiac being a stable, generous, and innovative educational host for business-minded Hungarians, who become better Hungarians by getting a little bit Americanized upon graduating from the program. With that being said, the two most recent scholars receiving QU and HIF support were introduced, Marcell Molnár and Bence Hausel. Marcell will come to the US for a general MBA and business experience, while Bence will earn an MBA and focus his work experience in the aviation industry. Both of them will arrive to Quinnipiac in August 2018.

Simultaneously, Mr. Zoltán Hajdu, owner of Smart Staff, an executive training company and long-time supporter of Quinnipiac’s programs, announced that Smart Staff was celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and used Zebegény to recognize his best clients for being a part of something bigger than themselves, which is beneficial to Hungary. As a sign of appreciation, he offered his company’s services for free to all HABL scholars and provided free copies of the book, Immunity to Change, to all Zebegény participants.

Afterward, a panel discussion followed entitled “Getting Innovation Right? Lessons Learned and Looking Forward” focusing on ways to enhance innovation in both Hungary and the US and through cooperation of the two together.  The panel was moderated by Joerg Bauer, President and CEO of Tungsram Group and co-leader of the Innovation Task Force of the Hungarian American Chamber of Commerce, and included outstanding leaders in this field such as Gergely Böszörményi-Nagy, Design Terminal and Brain Bar, Dávid Mihalik, Digitális Jólét Program, and Málna Polya, Quinnipiac HABL alumna and currently working with Vanessa Research Inc. launching innovative programs in Budapest.

Guests then enjoyed a poolside reception in the sunset and live music by Midlife Crisis Showband, a 9 piece band covering popular American and Hungarian music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

About Quinnipiac’s Hungarian American Business Leaders Program:

The Hungarian American Business Leaders Program (HABL) provides annual scholarships for two early career Hungarians per year to pursue an MBA at Quinnipiac and experience working in American companies. The students gain experience by working part-time during their two-year MBA program, then remain in the US for an additional year (or up to 18 months) of full-time employment. At the end of their scholarship period, they return home to Hungary to build their careers and share the best American business practices. In some cases, students return to Europe first then Hungary but their final destination must be Hungary and none are allowed to remain in the US beyond the scholarship period. Currently, five Hungarians are progressing in the program.

Alumni are working at major companies like Henkel, MVM, Travelers, Mercedes, United Technologies Corp, Falkenburg Investment, and some are launching their own companies. Since launching the Hungarian programs nearly 11 years ago, over 100 Quinnipiac MBA students have travelled to Hungary (for 2 week trips) and over 100 MBA students from Hungary’s Corvinus School of Management have travelled to Quinnipiac in return.