Gannon University Students, Professor Look At Management Styles From A Transatlantic Perspective In Germany

Posted: July 28, 2017

Bruce Kibler, Ph.D. spent more than a decade working for telecommunications and information technology companies in Germany, and he speaks the language fluently, So after Gannon University had signed an agreement in with Hochschule Esslingen University of Applied Sciences for the exchange of students and faculty, Kibler asked, why not both?

The answer was positive and so was the experience of Kibler and the five Gannon University students that accompanied the assistant professor of business to the German city of Esslingen for a joint course with 10 Esslingen students.

The three-week course was a combination of Gannon's MGMT 399 Strategic Management course and its equivalent at Esslingen, a technical university with an enrollment of 6,000 located near Stuttgart. And while it was a first for the Gannon students, Kibler came well prepared; he taught the course in Esslingen to Esslingen students last year.

"I wanted to go over there and do a test run before I brought the American students" he said, adding that he felt it was important to establish relationships in Germany and at Esslingen. The course was taught in English, as many courses are at German universities, and it was open to all students, not just business majors.

"The Strategic Management course contrasts how each side of the pond approaches what they perceive to be strategy," Kibler said. In order to attract students from multiple disciplines, he kept the subject matter approachable and not too specialized, choosing to analyze management philosophies of corporations in three large economic sectors: energy, agribusiness and health care. "Those are excellent points of contrast between how we do things and how other parts of the world do things," he said.

Groups of students from Gannon and Esslingen collaborated on research papers and presentations to to the class. What they found, Kibler said, was a great difference in strategic orientation between the two cultures. "One is oriented toward making money and the other, in a social market economy, emphasizes that people come first because people are more important than the market and the money that any particular individual or company makes."

 Kendra Walker, a junior accounting and finance major and president of Gannon's Student Government Association, called the course, "one of the coolest experiences of my life. We'd continue our classroom discussions after class and Dr. Kibler would have to shoo us out because they'd go on so long. We were challenged, but even more importantly, we were challenged to explore why we felt challenged."

When asked what the most valuable lesson of the class had been, Kibler didn't hesitate: "The intercultural exchange of ideas. The students loved it. I asked them to create a PowerPoint presentation about their experiences that we will use to recruit students to go to Germany next year."

The student traffic across the Atlantic flows in both directions as some Esslingen students spent the semester at Gannon this past Academic Year. Kibler hopes to teach the course in Germany every summer, and to further the dual degree program established between Gannon and Esslingen. "I believe it can be a powerful vehicle to recruit a new type of student," he said, "one who wants the American and the European experience."

Walker, who is exploring graduate studies in Germany, might be one of those students. "We had a whole classroom of people from all over the world with whom we've made professional connections and who we'll stay in touch with over the course of our careers. We learned a lot, but we also made a community." 

Gannon University Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge (I-HACK)

Gannon University announces the launch of the Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge (I-HACK).