Building International Engagement through Teaching and Learning

In April 2012, Denise Potosky, Ph.D., professor, management and organization, had the opportunity to serve as a visiting professor at the University of Strasbourg, France, where she taught a course on international human resource management to students in the school’s undergraduate and executive MBA programs. This past May, Sebastien Point, Ph.D., professor, University of Strasbourg, taught an accelerated course, “Developing Global Leaders: European Management Perspectives,” to Great Valley students in the MBA program. Their professional and personal experiences were both insightful and inspirational.




POTOSKY: I am Denise Potosky, professor of organization and management, at Penn State Great Valley’s School of Graduate Professional Studies and I’m here with my good friend and colleague, Sebastien Point.

POINT: Hello, my name is Dr. Sebastien Point. I am full professor at the University of Strasbourg in France, and I am here as a visiting professor to teach a class about European leadership. It is a great experience. The thing in Strasburg is that we have always been very international because we have more than 130 partnerships in terms of universities all over the world so it is quite common for us to welcome professors, scholars from all over the world to come for a couple of hours in exchange to our university. In terms of the students, they are so highly international it is very common having let’s say at least 20 or 30 different nationalities in the same class for undergraduates. So I would say that teaching in France or teaching here at first sight is fairly the same thing because the audience you have in front of you is just highly international. However, one may vary from one background that the students have from their own country. Here in the United States, I have to adapt the examples I am going to raise in the class because students may not have the same knowledge or background about the companies so that’s why even if I’m going to talk about the big companies, the largest French companies from the CAC40 which is our national, French stock exchange, may be difficult for the students to really get to know what I’m really talking about because they have never heard about the company. May be you experienced the same thing in France.

POTOSKY: Absolutely, I found that too. Not only did my frame of reference have to shift a bit as we would do cases on certain companies that were very familiar to me. I give the example in the Grande École HR course that I recently taught in France, I used a case study of Hershey and who doesn’t know Hershey chocolate, Hershey bars, and Hershey Kisses. Well most of Europe because there are so many other types of chocolate available. This isn’t the company that the people visit the amusement park or go through the factory as maybe Americans do or at least northeastern U.S. American citizens might. So the context of choosing cases and naming companies was not a challenge but it required some adaptation, just say name the biggest company you can think of and what I had in mind was not always what the students would come up and we had to negotiate that a lot, frequently in the classroom.

POINT: Maybe you assume the students already know [and] maybe cannot grasp the concepts and examples, so you have to adapt that and spend some time on specific things that you assume people will already know. So students may be universal or in the way that the teaching style may not differ from one country to another because we both use case studies, videos. But maybe what [is] changing, which is what I am noticing at Penn State is maybe the motivational aspects because maybe since I’m a foreign scholar it’s the first time, so far that you bring an international scholar here on campus in Great Valley campus. But I found students so eager to learn and to learn about Europe, to learn about France that they are highly motivated, they can read all my material, everything I am going to say. I’m very pleased with that.

POTOSKY: You know the students I met in France were also delightful in the executive MBA program. They bring a lot of experience and were very open and indeed eager to learn new perspectives and new ideas. For example, maybe just to build on what you’re saying some things are similar. They loved the virtual field trip experience just as our students here really enjoy meeting Sebastien online. But they also learned something new; they learned a new perspective, not a new language in terms of English, everything was in English, but a new language of business to talk about familiar issues but maybe from a new perspective and it was a really great and rewarding experience to be able to extend our efforts for sustainable business development for example into a whole new arena and get a group of students very enthusiastically talking about something new, way over there in France or in Europe. The eagerness and the enthusiasm for international faculty works both ways at least in my opinion. Students on both sides, I think, are just delightful.

POINT: So we both are international human resource management professors and we teach human resource management but we have to adapt ourselves what we are teaching from one place to another.