Wednesday, March 18, 2020
BY WADE RUPARD
When it came to completing assignments and projects for one of her human resources classes at the Carlson School, then-junior Jordan Starks’ mind was always 16 hours ahead. That’s because Starks, ’19 BSB, and her classmates were sharing instructors and class time with students in Brisbane, Australia.
Throughout the course “Human Resources Management—An International Perspective,” students from the Carlson School and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) worked together to navigate their cultural differences—including what time to meet— in order to complete their coursework.
“This project really taught me to work well within a team and balance relationships with my colleagues,” Starks says. “Those have been invaluable skills that I have since taken with me into my corporate career.”
In her career, she frequently works with a team based in India. Her class experiences have helped her become more comfortable and proactive in situations involving cross-cultural challenges.
The global experiential learning offered by the Carlson School gives students such as Starks an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge that will serve them well anywhere in the world. As one of the first public business schools to include an international experience requirement in the curriculum, each student is assured of educational opportunities to navigate cultural differences, look at business through a different lens, and gain exposure to new educational systems and ways of learning—all highly transferable experiences and skills.
In order to do this, the Carlson School continues to be proactive in adapting its program design, locations, and topics to ensure Carlson School students are getting cutting-edge experiences, here and abroad, to fit their needs, from traditional semester-long study abroad experiences to bringing students from around the world into the classroom virtually. Not only does the Carlson School now offer 18 faculty-led programs and 39 semester exchanges, but the school continues to develop new international experiences each year in order for students to get a complete global business education.
Passport to Learning
One area in which the Carlson School continues to lead is creating and adapting its curriculum and programs in response to the latest business challenges—an effort that requires partnerships around the globe. In the case of an international human resources course, Stacy Doepner-Hove, the director for the Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations (MHRIR) program at the Carlson School, co-teaches the undergraduate course with Bernd Irmer, a senior lecturer at QUT.
For the past several years, Doepner-Hove and Irmer have taught the course using technology-enabled classrooms to convene classes concurrently. During the semester, Carlson School students take the course in a virtual classroom experience with their Australian cohort.
While the two sets of students spend much of the class interacting virtually, there are also face-to-face opportunities. The course begins with Australian students coming to Minnesota, where they, along with their Carlson School colleagues, make site visits, attend class, and take an optional trip to Duluth. The semester ends with the Carlson School students making a trip to Australia for enriching experiences in Sydney and Brisbane.
While many tend to think of Australia and the United States as being culturally very similar, the depth of this partnership over the semester highlights some of the underlying cultural differences that may not be immediately noticeable.
Courses such as this are examples of how the Carlson School continues to be a thought leader in global education and finds new, exciting ways to not only build partnerships around the globe, but also develop innovative programming. The result? A literal world-class education.
The latest addition to the school’s lineup of innovative global experiences is the Medical Industry MBA (MIMBA), made possible through a partnership with Tongji University’s School of Economics and Management in Shanghai, China. The program began fall 2019 and is designed as a double degree, meaning students who complete the program receive an MBA from the Carlson School as well as Tongji University. This is the first MBA program in China with a focus on the medical industry.
Taught in China by both Carlson School and Tongji University faculty, the program aims to help students who are or who want to be management-level positions in the medical field understand the international market and technological innovation.
“The Medical Industry MBA is a first of its kind program that blends an MBA core curriculum with specialized course content on the global medical industry,” says Steve Parente, the Minnesota Insurance Industry Chair of Health Finance and associate dean of global initiatives. “A key feature of the degree program is the required Global Medical Valuation Laboratory (Global ValLab) where students generate investor reports on market potential of breakthrough new medical technologies and innovations. The Global ValLab is a GMAC award-winning innovation started by the Carlson Global Institute (CGI) in Shanghai in 2014 and continuing in Stockholm from 2015 on. The Global ValLab was the originating innovation that led to MIMBA partnership with Tongji.”
What surprised me is that there's so much we still have to learn. The Global Team Project was fantastic because it helps you open your doors to your blind spots.
These types of international partnerships continue into the real world. While many of the partnerships the Carlson School has developed for international study are partnered with other leading universities around the globe, the school also has connected itself to many leading international businesses to provide critical professional learning experience outside the classroom.
Through CGI, students are able to participate in experiential learning projects with companies both in the Twin Cities and abroad through the Global Business Practicum. Students work with partner businesses overseas on real issues facing these businesses. The practicum has featured opportunities with many of the Fortune 500 companies that call the Twin Cities home, but also have business operations globally, such as Ecolab and Hormel.
In some cases, students can learn on a global level while largely staying in the Twin Cities, such as Executive MBA students participating in the Global Team Project (GTP).
In the course, students virtually work with their counterparts from all three of the Carlson School’s Executive MBA programs across the globe—Minneapolis, Minn.; Vienna, Austria; and Guangzhou, China—for six months on a business project. The teams consist of at least one student from each school, and it allows members of all the teams to experience different cultures, industries, and markets.
Throughout the project, the teams must work through cultural differences and build a business plan for new market entry. The course culminates just before graduation in May, with students from the three programs meeting together for the first time in Minneapolis to present
their final product to a panel of judges.
“Working in a global business at 3M, I thought I was pretty experienced collaborating cross-functionally or across the globe,” says Raha Been, ’18 CEMBA. “What surprised me is that there’s so much we still have to learn. The Global Team Project was fantastic because it helps you open your doors to your blind spots.”
Senior Lecturer Svjetlana Madzar, who teaches the Carlson School Executive MBA international business course and faculty lead for the GTP, says the project exposes students to the challenges of working across cultures and allows students to build connections they will need, not just on this team, but on the many global teams they will work on after they graduate.
“The most important part of this project is the process,” Madzar says. “Here’s an opportunity for you to actually experiment with different ways of communication and experiment with how you deal with differences in language proficiency, and differences in your perspectives, how you make decisions and how you provide feedback.”
Cultivating Cultural Capabilities
As the Carlson School continues to expand its programming, it is also reviewing how students think about cultural differences and the importance of an international experience. One of the most significant recent initiatives is called cultural intelligence, or CQ.
The concept of CQ was pioneered by Soon Ang, ’93 PhD and recipient of the University of Minnesota’s Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals. According to Ang, cultural intelligence is the capability of a person or an organization to function effectively in culturally diverse situations. A person’s CQ is measured on a spectrum and is constantly growing and changing.
At the Carlson School, CGI has partnered with various programs and faculty who teach courses overseas in order to weave CQ into the curriculum. The MBA and MHRIR programs have incorporated CQ throughout the full degree program. In the case of MHRIR, students in the program take an individual CQ assessment during orientation. Results of the CQ assessment are used throughout the program, including the six practicum sessions in the first year when students are exploring real-world business problems, several of them with intercultural themes.
Following the program, the students take a 360-degree assessment to measure how they have changed over time.
“Students in the MHRIR program are able to take the skills and perspectives they’ve learned in the CGI program out to the organizations where they work,” says John Kammeyer-Mueller, the Curtis L. Carlson Professor of Industrial Relations. “Their experiences help them address some of the increasing need to effectively manage culturally diverse workforces. It’s especially important for contemporary HR leaders to implement rigorously developed and well-structured systems for enhancing CQ in the workplace, and CGI’s program is exactly this type of model. In sum, our students learn both the elements of CQ and also gain experience with developing CQ in others.”
CGI also works with faculty who teach global enrichment courses—short-term study abroad experience taught between semesters. Faculty use the CQ framework to weave those ideas seamlessly into the course to allow students to explore the interaction of these cultural differences.
The Carlson School also offers a required Career Skills course to help students convey the significance of their international experience—and the importance of those CQ skills—to potential employers. Working in concert with the school’s Undergraduate Business Career Center (UBCC), students learn the ins and outs of the career search process, from writing a resumé and cover letter to how to network and interview effectively.
Lisa Novack, associate director of student services for the UBCC, noted that about a quarter of the Carlson School’s undergraduate students look for jobs outside the Twin Cities market, and therein lies the opportunity: Covering these career basics—but with an eye toward experiences abroad. Beginning with the spring 2020 semester, Novack is teaching the Career Skills course with an international twist: Students will get the same information as the regular Career Skills course, but will also travel to both the United Kingdom and France.
Students meet with organizations both in London and Paris, take part in human resources panels, and learn the tactical practices and nuances of workplaces in other cultures, allowing them to compare job search processes both domestically and globally.
“Today, your career isn’t limited to just one location or just one industry,” Novack says. “It’s important for students to develop these career skills and be able to apply them in a variety of ways. We’re hoping the students in this course that will go abroad will learn something about their career aspirations and the possibility of working abroad.”
The UBCC, along with the Graduate Business Career Center (GBCC), works with students throughout their time at the Carlson School to help them articulate how an international experience is important in a job search. As business becomes increasingly global, it’s important for students to convey how these types of international experiences, whether it’s the traditional semester aboard or something like the Global Team Project, can translate to valuable business skills such as problem-solving, adaptability, and developing a global mindset. Employers are always looking for those types of skills, Novack says.
As Starks looks back on her time at the Carlson School, she says she is thankful that all students at the school study abroad. The experience allowed her to grow more than she could have imagined before her experience.
“I’m very grateful that the Carlson School does have the requirement to take part in an international experience,” she says. “I’m not sure I would have taken the time to seek out an abroad experience on my own, but it ended up being one of the highlights of my time at the University. If I hadn’t done this, I would not have gotten the insights into myself that I use each and every day now.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2020 alumni magazine
This issue of our alumni magazine focuses on our world, how we take part in it, and how we, as a community, are making it a better place.