Professor brings X-culture program to WMU

Photo of students in classOne way to help MBA students understand global business is to find 3,000 students and 108 faculty members from 80 universities in 40 countries, divide the students into teams of seven members from seven different countries and have them evaluate real cases provided by companies from throughout the world.

No easy feat.

The X-Culture Project, launched in 2010, has found a way, and now faculty members around the world are competitively applying for coveted spots in the program. Earning a place in the X-Culture Project this year, Dr. Stacey Fitzsimmons, WMU assistant professor of management, is one of 108 faculty members worldwide and one of 22 faculty members at U.S. universities to be accepted into the program. The X-Culture Project places students on teams to work together for several months developing an actual proposal for an international company. 

“Participating in such an extraordinary program provides a way for my students to learn about global business by doing it instead of reading about it in textbooks” says Fitzsimmons, who brought the program to WMU students beginning in September. “Unlike in their professional lives, the students have an opportunity to explore different communication techniques—they can practice.”

Now nearing the end of the first semester of the program, the students in the Global Business and Intercultural Communication course, taught by Fitzsimmons at the WMU Grand Rapids location, are fully immersed in writing up the cases. Getting to this point was a challenge for the WMU students, who are each on different teams with students around the world.

“We spent a lot of time in class mapping the cultures and troubleshooting problems. Multiple time zones, language barriers and who should lead the discussion are a few of the challenges faced by the team members,” says Fitzsimmons. “The students come up with ways to overcome the barriers and experiment with how they can make their teams more effective.”

The WMU students found that many of the students on their teams defer to American students. “For some, because English is used, students look to Americans to lead discussions. Our MBA students are mostly successful in their careers already and are well-educated, so they take on this leadership role readily,” says Fitzsimmons.

As an experiment, some of the WMU students decided to hold back a bit with their group work, and discovered that the other students started participating more. “By allowing other students to fill the gaps and take the lead, the WMU students discovered how to foster full participation in a group. This was an important lesson for everyone,” says Fitzsimmons.

Fitzsimmons plans to continue the program next semester with another group of students enrolled in international management in Kalamazoo. “I’m excited to involve a new group and to try new techniques.” 

This year’s cases involve the following companies:  

  • Trasluz Casual Wear, Spain*
  • Aedion Infotech, India
  • Gramedia, Indonesia
  • Sacona, India*
  • Recycle Bikes, USA*
  • Enventure Technology Services, India
  • Daimler AG, Germany*
  • Innospark, Lithuania*
  • Starnell Leadership Institute, USA 

In addition to bringing multicultural learning opportunities into the classroom, Fitzsimmons researches how multicultural employees impact organizations. Her most recent research, “Multicultural Employees: A Framework for Understanding How They Contribute to Organizations,” has been published in the Academy of Management Review. 

Learn more about the X-Culture Project education program and research at x-culture.org.