Case studies have their place in the classroom, but limit students to a pretty passive role. Hence the rising popularity of student-written, instructor-facilitated (SWIF) case writing. Instead of reading insights drawn by someone else, participants develop their own cases from start to finish: through researching, interviewing, writing, and presenting. Clinical Professor Mourad Dakhli leverages SWIF learning in Global Business (BUSA 4000), a core course required of all Robinson undergraduates, regardless of major. But the rigor doesn’t stop there. In fall 2021, his students completed a Virtual Exchange Project comprising a SWIF assignment in collaboration with peers from South Mediterranean University (SMU) in Tunis, Tunisia.
A total of 31, four-person groups chose topics addressing real business challenges with international implications and presented their findings via Zoom at the end of the semester. Dakhli and Assistant Professor Asma Chaibi of SMU selected three finalist teams to proceed to a case competition, held December 16. Robinson’s Center for International Business Education & Research funded prizes of $2,000 for first place; $1,500, second place; and $1,000, third place.
“The students had to work across time zones and geographies,” Dakhli said. “There’s a struggle to it, but that’s what global business is about.”
The winning case examined the multi-dimensional nature of the jewelry trade: its rich history; cultural symbolism; and ethical concerns including exploitation of miners, blood diamonds, and appraisal inflation. Team members included Kolby Belcher and Michaela James, both from Robinson, and Fatma Ben Mami and Cyrine Haj Romdhane, both from SMU.
“They provided a solid context for the modern jewelry industry, explained how gold and other items set a foundation for trade, and dove into how jewelry serves as a sign of wealth and prestige,” Dakhli said. “They told a nice story from a business, historical, and ethical perspective.”
James, who studied computer information systems with a concentration in cybersecurity, graduated in December. When she brings up the Virtual Exchange Project in job interviews, hiring managers are impressed that she already possesses cultural competence. That includes an ability to interface with colleagues in various time zones as well as sensitivity to the nuances of conducting business in different cultures.
“If you’re unaware of how professionals run things in another country, you might be offended or assume a meeting didn’t go well,” James said. “You have to know whether to engage in small talk and how to adjust your body language. Sometimes it’s necessary to change your entire communication style.”
Through the Virtual Exchange Project as well as conversations with recruiters, James realized she has a knack for leading teams and articulating complex technical concepts. Now she’s applying for positions that better align with her strengths.
“My communication skills are an asset,” James said. “I initially planned to pursue a linear cybersecurity path, but I’ve switched gears toward project management.”