Students Examine Organizational Management in Turkey, United States

group of students smiling in front of a building in Turkey
June 14, 2012

With support from the Turkish Coalition of America, 17 George Washington graduate students in the Department of Organizational Sciences and Communication were able to examine management practices in Turkey during the spring semester and do cross-cultural comparisons with organizational practices in the United States.

Led by Chair and Associate Professor of Organizational Sciences and Communication Elizabeth Davis, the class spent almost two weeks in Istanbul, Bursa and Cappadocia for the class “Comparative Management: East Meets West-Turkey,” the department’s fourth overseas course.

Students from the Elliott School of International Affairs, the School of Business and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences were among the participants. Each GW student received a $500 scholarship from the Turkish Coalition of America, which Dr. Davis said made the trip possible for the class.

“I couldn’t have had a better group,” said Dr. Davis. “The informal learning that went on among the students from across the schools was really phenomenal. Each group brought a different perspective to the course.”

The course was designed to provide students with an overseas academic experience that would enhance students’ understanding of the impact culture has on management and leadership practices in organizations— essential concepts for international management — through a series of corporate site visits. The course objectives also included increasing the student’s cultural intelligence around issues of human resource practices, production/operations, research and development, marketing, and management areas which confront the strategic leaders in their organizations.

To prepare for the trip, the class met every two weeks for lectures on comparative management and cultural intelligence. When they arrived in Turkey, students had the opportunity to apply their classroom learning as they engaged with staff, business leaders and CEOs from the Tourama Tourism Company, Turasan Wine Company, TGRT Broadcasting, Turkish Cultural Foundation and the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Dr. Davis said this study tour experience provided students with “a whole new context for thinking about organization and commerce in a globalized world.” Dr. Davis said the class also visited Bogazici University in Istanbul and engaged in a discussion with faculty regarding the similarities and differences in organizational leadership models in the Middle East and the United States. George Washington currently has a study abroad partnership in effect with Bogazici University.

At the end of the course, students wrote and presented research papers on the topics they examined during their trip. Papers included topics which compared marketing /advertising strategies; human resource practices; models of women’s leadership; and IT diffusion of innovation in organizations with management strategies in the United States.

“The research papers were very interesting,” said Dr. Davis. “Each one had to be grounded in some sort of organizational application but the topics themselves were wildly diverse.”

Dr. Davis said the Turkish Cultural Foundation, the sister organization of the Turkish Coalition of America, helped coordinate many of the group's site visits, which included a hot air balloon ride at sunrise—and the study of the stakeholder model of the hot air balloon business in the Eco-Tourism/National Park System of Cappadocia —and a tour of a store showcase of young designers in Turkey, which included works in art, textile, food and clothing, Turkish National TV Broadcasting Channel and a tour of the organic wine makers factory.

Emphasizing the importance of cultural intelligence for managing cross-cultural differences, Dr. Davis encouraged the students to reflect not only on cultural differences but also on the similarities between cultures as well. Dr. Davis, who has taken past classes to Eastern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Western Europe, said study abroad trips help students build the “cultural intelligence” needed to work abroad and in the globalized world.

“These short immersions have tremendous impact on reshaping the paradigm of the way people think about work and organizations in a particular culture,” she said. “It has the ability, with reflection, to really alter people’s perceptions and attitudes. Students today must emerge with not just a global mindset but with the abilities to use their knowledge and skills around the globe to be effective leaders. So that is why I keep doing them.”

“It was such a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved —students, faculty and executives,” she added. “I've done a lot of these over the years but this one was really very special.”

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