Visiting Fulbright Scholar Brings Global Perspective to the University of Arizona

April 19, 2022


Dr. Štefan Tkáč was already connected with the University of Arizona before commencing as a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the College of Engineering. He is also Associate Professor and Chair of the Architecture Department at the American University of Phnom Penh, where he teaches in the University of Arizona dual degree program.

Tkáč’s journey has been truly international, taking him from his native Slovakia to Taiwan, then Cambodia, and now Tucson, Arizona. Born in the city of Košice, Slovakia, Tkáč was accepted into the prestigious German Bauhaus University, though increasing costs pushed him to accept an offer to study at the Taiwanese Chung Hua University where he received a tuition waiver.

 “I borrowed two thousand euros and bought a one-way, five hundred euros ticket for Taiwan,” said Tkáč. “To cover my expenses in Taiwan, I took up a number of jobs, from teaching English to working as a lifeguard.”

 “It was a challenging period, but I had managed to collect the necessary credits to complete a two-year program in less than a year," recalled Tkáč. “So, I requested my rector at the time to allow me to graduate early.”

Tkáč’ received the necessary approval and more support from the university, becoming the first student at Taiwanese Chung Hua University to have a tuition waiver along with a living stipend.

During his time in Taiwan, Tkáč became increasingly focused on minimizing the impact of architecture on human and environmental health. He took this forward with a double diploma studying hydroelectric potential of Slovakian and Taiwanese micro-urban structures at the Technical University of Košice in Slovakia and the Taiwanese Chung Hua University.

 “The idea behind my model was to make urban growth sustainable.”

Upon completing his studies, and with a family now in Taiwan, Tkáč was eager to remain in the region. At the time, the American University of Phnom Penh (AUPP) urgently needed an architect with knowledge of Civil Engineering to collaborate with the University of Arizona on a dual degree program.

The position seemed like a great opportunity, so with the support of his family, he decided to take the leap and accepted the offer as Associate Professor and Chair of the Architecture Department at AUPP.

As an educator at AUPP, Tkáč brings his international experience to the fore, encouraging his students to be open-minded. “It is one thing to learn in class from professors,” he says, “but it's a whole new experience to go out there and see things for yourself, see how others are doing things rather than just read about it in class.”

 “I want my students to be exposed to a broad, global perspective. I don’t want them to be limited or cut off from that global experience and that’s why I always encourage them to participate in exchange programs,” said Tkáč.

On exchange now himself, as a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Arizona, Tkáč spoke at the annual Fulbright Week Reception about his education and research experience. He advised the audience to aim high and remember the importance of being an international ambassador for your country.

Tkáč’s appointment as a Fulbright scholar demonstrates how well the program promotes the cross-cultural exchange of philosophies and ideas. Tkáč recently spoke at the opening of the Vann Molyvann Exhibition, hosted by the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture in cooperation with the College of Engineering, Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering and Mechanics.

The exhibition show cased the work of Molyvann, Cambodia´s first fully qualified architect and the man responsible for the new era of Cambodian postcolonial architecture referred to as The New Khmer Architecture.

For Tkáč, Molyvann’s work and approach resonated with him, especially Molyvann’s philosophy of keeping architectural designs in coherence with local environmental conditions.

In collaboration with the Vann Molyvann Project and its umbrella association, the New Khmer Architecture Group, Tkáč now continues to promote the architectural legacy of the Sangkum era to the next generation of Cambodian architects and audiences worldwide.

The presentation at CAPLA was the first exposition of Vann Molyvann´s work outside the Asia-Pacific region, as well as the very first appearance in the U.S. 

Together with the Vann Molyvann Project and the New Khmer Architecture Association, Tkáč plans to introduce the story of Vann Molyvann and the legacy of the New Khmer Architecture to Japan, Taiwan, Slovakia, and finally back to the country of its origin, Cambodia via a series of international workshops and full-scale exhibitions.

This year, he is also concluding the 10 years research phase on the Taiwanese Hydropower scape. There are several events on schedule which include a student workshop on historic hydropower plants as a part of hands-on experience with an industrial heritage, physical restoration activities, and the first full-scale hydropower plant exhibition in Taiwan.  

About Dr. Štefan Tkáč

Dr. Tkáč is the Chair of Architecture and Civil Engineering and Associate Professor at American University of Phnom Penh. His most significant accomplishments as a professional include:

  • Fulbright Visiting Scholar to the University of Arizona – College of Engineering
  • Dual PhD from the Technical University of Košice, the Slovak Republic and Chung Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan R.O.C.
  • PhD in both the Theory of Designing Buildings and Environment and Civil Engineering.
  • CEO of an international architectural company STUDIO Ltd.
  • The Technical University of Kosice´s representative in South and the Far East Asia and advisor to the rector’s office for International relationships.
  • Founder of the first Slovak academic International Branch Campus
  • Head of the Slovak~Taiwan hydro energy research lab
  • Author of the first complex mapping of Taiwanese hydropower plants
  • The only Slovak member of the Asian Network of Industrial Heritage

About Fulbright Week at The University of Arizona

Fulbright Week is held annually each spring, and is co-sponsored by University of Arizona’s Office of Research, Innovation & Impact, the Franke Honors College, the Graduate College, and Arizona Global. Multiple offices across campus regularly provide workshops on the Fulbright experience and provide application support for students, faculty and staff, and recent alumni.

Fulbright is the flagship program for international educational exchange for the U.S. government, promoting “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries in the world.”

 The University of Arizona is consistently designated a top producing institution of Fulbright Students and Scholars. In fall 2021, UA was recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution Fulbright Top Producer.

For faculty interested in the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program please contact Emily Kotay, Interim Assistant Director, Office of International Research in Research Development services.

For students interested in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, please contact Dr. Karna Walter, Assistant Dean for Student Engagement or Valeria Quijada, Assistant Director, Nationally Competitive Scholarship in the Honors College (applicants do not have to be honors students to participate).

International Fulbright Students and Scholars who come to the University of Arizona to study or conduct research are supported by the teams at International Student Services and International Faculty and Scholars offices.