The School of Management’s core curriculum underwent a series of changes this fall, namely those targeted at enhancing students’ global exposure.
Following months of faculty-conducted research, student focus groups and multiple meetings of the SOM’s senior faculty, modifications to the core curriculum were officially approved late last spring. While some of the changes concern rearranging course material into new classes under different names, the most significant addition involves the introduction of an entirely new course, “Global Virtual Teams.” By requiring SOM students in New Haven to work on project simulations with students from business schools in Paris and Mexico, the course aims to prepare students for team-based business management that crosses borders and oceans.
“We know from all of our stakeholders who lead companies that people have to collaborate constantly with colleagues who are scattered around the world,” said SOM Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain. “You have to overcome language and time differences. This course will pay attention to the team dynamics and how individuals and teams create a higher performance organization.”
Both Jain and SOM Associate Dean David Bach said they were not aware of any other business schools that offer courses like “Global Virtual Teams.” While this year’s course will involve students from the SOM, HEC in Paris and EGADE Business School in Nuevo León, Mexico, Bach said he hopes that the course will grow to include as many of the SOM’s schools in the Global Network — an international partnership of schools founded by SOM Dean Ted Snyder in 2011 — as possible.
Bach said as many as 10 Global Network schools were approached for participation in the course but that a number of challenges arose in securing their participation. Some business schools expressed hesitation in joining a program as new as “Global Virtual Teams,” Bach said. Others could not commit due to scheduling conflicts as the course — which will be offered during the first half of the spring semester — has to align with the semester schedules of each partner school. Bach admitted that coordinating a critical mass of schools was more difficult than he expected.
“I underestimated how many factors come into play and how many factors you have to control to get this lined up,” he said.
SOM professor Amy Wrzesniewski, one of the architects of the course, said she hopes that students who take it will be better equipped to enter the workforce, because they will be exposed to the different ways global business teams operate. It is easy to assume that all teams in the business world work the same way, she said, but being unprepared to face structural and procedural differences with collaborators can prevent people from achieving their goals.
Despite the novelty of “Global Virtual Teams,” Bach and Jain agreed that this year’s core curriculum changes are not drastic in nature. Rather, the core generally undergoes changes every few years, they said.
SOM professor Olav Sorenson, who also serves as the director of the core curriculum, said that through a series of student focus groups that he led in the spring and fall of 2014, it was clear that students were feeling overwhelmed with the amount of material covered in the first part of the core. Sorensen said that over the past year, he looked for ways to decongest the beginning of the fall semester and reduce overlapping course material.
Of the SOM students interviewed, all spoke positively about the core’s changes, particularly regarding the introduction of “Global Virtual Teams.” However, almost all first-year students acknowledged that they were only a few weeks into the core curriculum and could not speak definitively about the impacts of those changes. Second-year students said they were not particularly dissatisfied with the core curriculum they completed last year.
Douglas Wynne SOM ’17 said that before beginning business school he worked at a company with international offices in London, Prague and Sydney, where he was often required to set up conference calls early in the morning or late at night to accommodate various schedules. Wynne said he was looking forward to taking “Global Virtual Teams” because this kind of international exposure reflects current modes of thinking.
Surbhi Lal SOM ’17 said she previously worked with a business team based in India, and can now see the advantages of practicing how to navigate different business cultures and time zones.
The Global Network currently includes 27 business schools in 25 countries.