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Jiri Pehe

The Director of NYU Prague since 1998, Jiří Pehe was the Director of the Political Department of Czech President Václav Havel from 1997 to 1999. He serves as Chairman of the Program Committee of the Forum 2000 Foundation that organizes annual international conferences under Havel’s auspices.

From 1995 to 1997, Pehe was Director of Analysis and Research Department at the Open Media Research Institute in Prague. Between 1988 and 1995, he first worked as an analyst of Central European affairs and later as Director of Central European Research at the Research Institute of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany. From 1985 to 1988, Pehe was Director of East European Studies at Freedom House in New York.

Pehe studied law and philosophy at Charles University in Prague from 1974 to 1978. In 1980, he received a doctorate in law (JUDr.) from the School of Law of Charles University. He fled Czechoslovakia in 1981 and eventually settled in the U.S.A. In 1985 he graduated from the School of International Affairs at Columbia University in New York.

Pehe has written hundreds of articles and analytical studies on developments in Eastern Europe for American, Czech, and German periodicals and academic journals. He is a regular contributor to various Czech newspapers and regularly comments on political developments for Czech Television and Radio. He co-authored and edited a book titled The Prague Spring: A Mixed Legacy, which was published by Freedom House in 1988. In 2002, his book Vytunelovaná demokracie was published by Academia, Prague. Pehe has also contributed essays and chapters to various other books and written several novels. He teaches at Charles University and NYU Prague.

Past courses taught: The Czech Republic in a Global Context. 

Thea Favaloro

Thea Favaloro has worked at NYU Prague since it opened its doors to students in 1998 with a staff of two. Over the course of the years she has been involved in all aspects of the organization, particularly in helping develop the academic programs and working with faculty. She is currently responsible for the site's finances and operations.

Born in San Francisco and raised in upstate New York, she considers herself lucky to call Prague her adopted home. Outside of work she enjoys reading, running and mushroom picking in Czech forests.


Vanda Thorne

As Assistant Director for Acacdemic Affairs, Vanda Thorne oversees our NYU Prague faculty.   

Dr. Thorne also teaches and researches on the themes of mass mentality, social movements, and collective civil action in totalitarian and post-totalitarian regimes. Other interests include gender and politics in Central Europe, ideology and propaganda, and theories of cultural resistance.

She received her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Pittsburgh. She also holds an M.A. in English and American Literature from Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and an M.A. in Gender and Culture from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Lenka Vavruskova

Lenka Vavruskova has worked as our librarian since 2005. 

She set up a system to catalogue the 10,000 books and films in our collection, and she tracks down materials for all of our courses.  As well as course books, our library has a unique collection of 2,600 books donated by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty focused on 20th century politics in Europe.  For access to our online library catalogue go to 

Lenka spends her spare time gardening and with her three grandchildren.

Student Life Staff

Martina Faltova

Martina Faltova started working at NYU Prague in 2002. She had just returned from New York where she had worked for the family of the late NYU professor Tony Judt.  Martina started as an office assistant, and later she worked as Facilities Manager of the Machova Dorm and the Student Life Coordinator. She is now the Assistant Director of Student Life and oversees immigration, residential life, health and wellness, and co-curricular activies. 

Martina loves traveling.  She has lived in the UK and spent 4 months working in the NYU Office of Global Programs in New York. She is currently spending two months at NYU Madrid to oversee Student Life at that site.

Martina, who has a degree in communications, is especially interested in new communication technologies. Outside of work she likes to spend her time doing yoga, biking and exploring contemporary art and architecture.

Sarah Coffey

In 2011, Sarah Coffey left her job in NYU's Center for Near-Eastern Studies on Washington Square to join the NYU Prague student life team.  She founded our successful Kulturama-Praha program which offers a rich array of cultural programming to NYU Prague students.  She also helps students get through the immigration process, as well as coordinating NYU trips and dealing with other aspects of student life.

Sarah is a lover of classical music - one of the reasons she moved to Prague.   She is a member of the Kuhn Choir of Prague, one of the city's leading professional choirs, and she also teaches private piano lessons.

Dr. Desiree Gonzales

Désirée is a clinical psychologist and the onsite Global Wellness Counselor at NYU Prague. She is responsible for addressing the mental health and wellness needs of students studying at NYU Prague by: providing clinical assessment, individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, facilitation of emergency mental health services, assisting students in obtaining psychiatric and/or specialty psychological services as needed, providing wellness education to students through presentations during orientation week, as well as offering and coordinating workshops throughout the semester in various areas of psychological wellness.

Désirée joined NYU in November 2013. Previously, she worked as an external provider of mental health services for NYU Prague. Désirée has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from King's College London (UK) and is a registered Clinical Psychologist at the British Psychological Society. She has worked with adolescents and adults in clinical, research and teaching roles at six universities in the past 15 years in London (UK), Hamburg (Germany) and Prague. Désirée is passionate about working with students to facilitate the kind of wellbeing, stability, self-reflection and self-confidence that will help them realize their potential in life.

Music Program

Marta Fleishhansova

Marta has been with NYU since 1999, when she left her job in the office of President Vaclav Havel to work as the facilities manager of the brand-new Prague branch of NYU. Marta has been singing in various Prague choirs since she was a young child, and when Steinhardt College at NYU decided to set up a music program in Prague, she was the obvious choice for program coordinator.  Marta works with each music student individually, finding them the most suitable internships, helping them set up ensembles, scouring the city for the perfect venue, chasing down instruments, and much more.

Marta studied Japanese at Charles University and loves the culture, the calligraphy, the food.... she is an avid cook, particularly of raw vegan food.  As mentioned above, she has sung in many choirs, but she is currently taking a break from that so she can have more time with her three young children.

Tony Ackerman -

Tony Ackerman attended Harvard University, studied classical guitar in Italy for many years, and received a Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

His performing career as a guitarist has spanned over 40 years and many musical styles, including jazz, modern avant-garde art music, and American roots styles. After receiving an IREX grant to study Czech contemporary music in 1983, Ackerman remained in Prague, creating an original acoustic duo with the Czech jazz pianist Martin Kratochvil, combining the sounds of his 7-string guitar with Kratochvil’s adventurous explorations on the grand piano. The duo, which has expanded to include multi-ethnic percussionist Imram Musa Zangi, has recorded nine albums and performed thousands of concerts in the Czech Republic and abroad.

Ackerman has taught music theory and history at UC Santa Barbara, and was music teacher and chair of the Fine Arts Department at the International School of Prague from 1985-2012. During this time he also taught Aural Comprehension at the NYU Prague campus (2006), and gives frequent lectures to visiting American university groups about Czech music, focusing on the underground music scene during the Communist 1980s. 


Jitka Kalasova

Jitka Kalasova started working for NYU Prague in 2002 to assist with finances.   In addition, she now oversees our internship program, searching out new opportunities for students in a variety of fields. 

Jitka studied social work and is very interested in other cultures and has traveled extensively across Europe, to South America and Asia.


Darima Batorova

Darima joined NYU in Prague as a Resident Assistant in 2007. She subsequently became the Facility Manager of the Jaurisova dorm and later of the Osadni dorm.

Darima comes from Buryatia, a region of Siberia close to Lake Baikal. She has a master's degree from Charles University and recently started a PhD, researching the experiences of Russian-speaking students in Prague. Darima likes to spend her spare time gardening, renovating furniture and playing ping pong.

Marketa Helebrantova

In 2007 Marketa Helebrantova set up the Slezska Dorm, where she works as Facilities Manager and lives with her family. Marketa is also one of the Facilities Managers on campus, making sure that everything works in our 15th century Academic Centers.

Before working at NYU, Marketa spent several years on the road as a dancer with one of Prague's theatres. She is still closely connected to the contemporary dance world and has coordinated dance workshops for NYU Prague students.

Jan Hovorka

Jan Hovorka- known by everyone on campus as Honza- started out at NYU Prague as an RA in the Machova dorm in 2005. He's now the Facilities Manager of Machova as well as of the NYU Academic Center. Honza has been working with NYU in New York to expand the IT networks all over our campus - a challenging task in 500 year-old buildings with Renaissance ceilings and strict building codes.

Jan comes from Marianske Lazne - also known as Marienbad - a spa town in the rolling hills of Western Bohemia. He acquired a love of basketball when he spent a year abroad as a high school student in Louisiana, and he's always up for shooting hoops with our students.

Maria Dzurnakova

When she was a student at the Prague Economics University, Maria started coming to public lectures and discussions at NYU Prague.  She was subsequently hired to be a Resident Assistant, then the Facilities Manager of the Osadni Dorm, and she is now one of the Facility Managers on campus.

Maria grew up in Slovakia and moved to the Czech Republic when she started university.  In her spare time Maria plays the violin, is an avid painter, and recently has been spending a lot of time doing yoga.  

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