University Relations Office
University of Wisconsin-Superior
Belknap and Catlin
P.O. Box 2000
Superior, WI 54880
News and Events Details
A classroom in Erlanson Hall was filled with discussion accented in German and American Midwest on Tuesday, Sept. 28, as students in Dr. Bruce Kibler's Strategic Management course at the University of Wisconsin-Superior hosted their "business partners" from the University of Kassel in Germany.
Over the next several months, the students from both countries will use e-mail, Skype and other electronic means to bridge the Atlantic Ocean to jointly manage a fictitious international camera company. Their meeting this week in Superior was the first opportunity for them to gather in person to begin learning how to run a business when your co-workers or customers live on the other side of the globe.
"It's fun. We're getting different ideas from different people," said Paige Maki, a senior management major from Superior. "We're learning to understand how they perceive something in Germany, and they're learning how we see it here."
Software simulates business management
In Kibler's Strategic Management course, students use computer simulation software to manage a company. They form teams with business students at the University of Kassel to hammer out all aspects of their company's affairs, from marketing to production.
The simulation enables the students to experience managing a company that has offices or sells products around the world. By working with students in another country, they learn how to work across the boundaries of cultures, languages and even time zones - invaluable experience for students majoring in programs such as those UW-Superior offers in management or international business.
"The students learn to improve their cross-cultural communication skills and learn the difficulties of communicating with people from a different culture," said Kibler, assistant professor of management in the Department of Business and Economics.
For students planning careers in business, it's a particularly valuable lesson for a world where many companies conduct business overseas or have owners or subsidiaries around the world.
Simulated business, real competition
The computer simulation includes another key aspect of business: competition. Teams using the software compete with teams from other universities around the world to see who does the best job managing their companies. Last year, a group of UW-Superior students placed third among 70 teams.
Germans interested in small business
Dr. Gerd-Michael Hellstern, one of the University of Kassel professors who accompanied the German students to Superior, said most of his students are familiar with Germany's big businesses, but they are interested in learning more about how Americans create and run small businesses.
After observing the American and German students together, he said they seem "very much alike" because of similar tastes in movies and music. Nonetheless, both groups can learn much from the other about business.
"Our students are very much stimulated to learn more about America and life in America," he said. "They see people (here) are much more responsible for their individual survival than in Europe. So it's important for them to learn what to do and what to avoid" when doing business in the United States.
And, he added, it's equally important for American students to learn how Europeans think so they can produce and export more products to Europe.
The German students are just as enthusiastic about the course as their UW-Superior counterparts.
"This is a lot more interactive than just sitting and listening," said Kaija Zindel, one of the visitors. "You learn a lot more than in a regular lecture."
The University of Kassel contingent included 13 students and two instructors, who spent five days in Superior, working and socializing with 20 UW-Superior students in the Strategic Management course and touring local businesses and attractions. They also visited several other cities and universities in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Copyright © The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
University of Wisconsin-Superior is an equal opportunity educator and employer