Need proof the world is getting smaller? CSB/SJU class partners with India school

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October 1, 2020

By Mike Killeen


Never in his wildest dreams did David Cullen envision what his first block Global Business Leadership class would look like.

“I did not know it was going to be a global classroom like this when I signed up, but it ended up being one of my favorite classes I have taken,” said Cullen, a senior global business leadership major from Edina, Minnesota.

The four-credit class, Operations and Supply Chain Management, partnered 30 undergraduate students like Cullen from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University with 11 master’s students from Thakur Business School in Mumbai, India. Connecting via Zoom, the students participated in online classes and projects together.

The project was spotlighted in the Sept. 30 issue of the Business Standard magazine, a national business magazine in India.

“I thought this was an amazing experience,” Cullen said. “Working with students from Mumbai has given me many different and new perspectives, and I learned a lot from them. The class provided challenges, but nevertheless, it was one of the most informative, enjoyable and memorable classes I have ever taken.”

Elena Branca, a senior global business leadership major from Plymouth, Minnesota, said the class was beneficial because of the experience of working with students across the globe.

“This is the epitome of what our global business leadership major is trying to prepare us for,” Branca said. “Our world is dependent on a diverse set of strong business leaders from all over. We work better together.”

“This class was an amazing experience,” said Jesus Leon-Morales, a senior global business leadership major from Minneapolis. “It was interesting to learn about supply chain operations in a global community. It was a unique opportunity during a unique time.”

Kingshuk Mukherjee, an associate professor of global business leadership who has taught the class since 2008, said this was a positive opportunity that came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are all virtually connected now. This ‘global classroom’ will be a new trend for higher education,” Mukherjee said. “We – at global business leadership and CSB/SJU – are setting a new trend. The Hyflex technology along with the cameras in the classroom gives an added effect of being in a real class with a global group of students.”

In 2015, CSB and SJU signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian school, which is the leading business school in Mumbai. Since then, Mukherjee, Deborah Pembleton (associate professor of global business leadership and director of the Asian Studies program) and Madhu Mitra (professor of English and gender studies) visited the Indian school. In return, Pankaj Natu, director of the school, visited CSB and SJU for a week.

“This is the first time we have partnered virtually with our partner in Mumbai to have a student-to-student exchange,” Mukherjee said. “We have professors from both institutes involved as co-coordinators, along with departmental and institutional support.”

The students from India said it was a good experience from their standpoint as well, despite navigating a huge time difference. Mumbai is 10½ hours ahead of Minnesota, meaning the class that began at 9 a.m. in Minnesota began at 7:30p.m. in India (Mumbai uses a special half-hour time zone).

“It was an amazing experience (working) with Saint Benedict and Saint John’s students,” said Ashish Gawas, a student at Thakur Business School. “We got an opportunity to study along with them, and credit goes to Professor Kingshuk Mukherjee who always supported all aspects (of the experience).

“It was a great learning experience under him. We will miss those breakout room discussions wherein we … share our ideology with them on various concepts that were really interesting,” Gawas said.

Mukherjee said the class reflected the realities, challenges and opportunities of how COVID-19 has affected the supply chain.

“The class focus changed to the immediate need dealing with supply chain disruptions,” he said. “There are incredible takeaways with global classroom experience at a time when there are no study abroad programs and a sharp decline of international students at U.S. campuses. This brings a sense of intercultural and global mindset when students work among themselves.”

It’s also the way businesses operate on a global scale.

“A major part of why I say this experience was informative is because of the experience I was able to gain in working on a global virtual team,” said Pierce Boder-Szarkowski, a senior global business leadership major from Champlin, Minnesota. “I know that businesses are moving more and more toward their use, and I will very likely be part of one during my career. That is why I greatly appreciate this chance to experience the benefits and challenges of a global virtual team.”

“Working with students from Mumbai was interesting because it offered perspectives of what is going on in other parts of the world,” added Andrew Pearson, a junior global business leadership and accounting major from St. Cloud, Minnesota. “It also resembles business as a whole where people from many different places and backgrounds communicate in different ways.

“We were glad we got to work with (the) U.S. students,” said Darshana Gawde, a student at Thakur Business School. “All were very supportive and despite the time barrier, everyone took the project sportingly and gave 100%.

“Thank you for letting us explore the new platform in the new normal,” Gawde added.