Meet our former student, Katalin Mizda

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Katalin Mizda completed her studies at IBS in 2003 and she is the Managing Director of Csodák Palotája (Palace of Wonders).

What did you do after your IBS studies?

I would begin earlier. To be honest, my life has been determined by my early wedding and the births of our kids. I have four kids and two of them were with us already during my studies, and my third kid was born in my final year at IBS. So right after my IBS studies I was busy with raising my children. It was good because when I was a kid I wanted to be a teacher. Education has always been part of my life. I studied during my pregnancies, my maternity leaves, I wrote my thesis on private higher education and its role and place in Hungarian society, and now I run an informal educational institution - and I am going in edutainment - which is the best form of learning.

What did you do during your placement year?

I spent my placement at IBS and was involved in marketing. I worked in the recruitment of new students. Recruitment at that time was focussing on Hungary and not yet abroad. We went to publicize IBS in numerous cities in the countryside. At the time the majority of IBS students were Hungarians. There were also some foreign students, most of whose parents lived in Hungary. We also had some students from the member states of the former Soviet Union. Also, because of the crisis in the Balkan, in the former Yugoslavia, many people came over to Hungary and some of our students came from these territories.

Private education at that time was a rather new phenomenon in Hungary and IBS was among the first private higher education institutions in the country. This whole situation was new. I was interested in how a private college or university was received, how people learned about them at all, how legal regulations considered them.

Where did you start your career?

Right after IBS I could not work as I was dealing with the kids at home, as I said. When my youngest kid got into kindergarten, I started to work as the assistant of the founder and honorary rector of IBS, István Tamás, who is my father. Soon I became the managing director of Hungarian Gallop which was set up by István Tamás and Péter Geszti. Working in family business suits my personality. I am very family-oriented (I have been married for 22 years with four kids) and I enjoy working with people whom I love and trust. So I worked for 3 years with my father organising this monumental event, meanwhile I became the CEO of the maintainer company of IBS.

In 2011 I was elected to be the managing director of Csodák Palotája Nonprofit Ltd. and since my father is one of its owners and he is a continuous maintainer of the science center, I am happily taking advantage of getting supervision, counselling and mentoring from him. Besides, I can work with my husband, my brother (who is also an IBS alumnus), my sister-in-law (also graduated in IBS) and brother-in-law in Csodák Palotája. I also have to mention that I can always turn to my mother for advice who is the Student Counsellor of IBS.

What is the Center of Scientific Wonders?

The Center is 20 years old this year. Being the first science center of Hungary, it is a unique place of its kind. It is a huge play-area for every generation; it has several interactive exhibitions where the visitors can actually study natural phenomena while playing with the exhibits. Our exhibition is a hands-on exhibition, which means the visitors actually interact with the exhibited objects - they play with them meanwhile they learn about scientific facts and phenomena. We actually implement edutainment: education during entertainment or vice-versa, entertaining while educating.

The Palace of Wonders was founded by physicists, by the Budapest Science Centre, which itself was founded by the Eötvös Loránd Association of Physicists and Ernő Rubik, the inventor of the world-famous magic cube. After a year of operation it was almost closed because of financial difficulties. My father at this time was very active, he graduated as an engineer and later doubled his degree as an economist. He travelled a lot and visited science centers all over the world, so he got very interested in this option. He was actually considering setting up a science center in Hungary at that time. This was a happy meeting: he got in contact with the manager of the Center. All in all, my father injected tens of millions of forints which made it possible for the center to survive, and since he has 49% ownership, he has been in the management with his on-going support.

The science center operated on different locations. We were in two locations and now we operate in Campona, but if everything goes as planned we will open a new second venue this spring, with rather different themes and look but with the same philosophy, and we will serve our visitors at two locations.

What would you like to change?

I would like to form the center into a place where every generation finds meaningful entertainment and has fun together. Ever since I have been working here, my intention has been to expand the scope of the exhibitions, and to include other fields of sciences as well. My idea is to have more interactive playgrounds. During my management years, more than half of the exhibition was renewed and we also improved our Öveges Auditorium programme. Three new themed sections were installed (Solar System, Record, Magnetic World) and we built in a special section where we connected science experiments with tales for kindergartners in the Öveges programme. My big aim is to include more and more fields of science, to present them and to make them more and more popular. I think biology, birth and life would be very important to include, especially for teenagers, to present birth from conception to the use of diapers and on different levels for different ages.

The big challenge is to provide the same intensity and excitement for a 5 year-old and for a 80 year-old. And I dare to say that we are successful in it. There are hardly any people in Hungary who have not heard of the Palace of Wonders. I also would like to make it a place where young people can meet. I see it in the life of my kids, who are helping a lot in my work, that it is a problem for teenagers where to meet, what to do together when they begin dating. I would like to add this center to those that are already popular like cinema, zoo, etc. There is a list of the 10 best dating places and the Palace of Wonders is the third - I feel it is a real success on top of the almost 200 thousand visitors a year.