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Second year UWEC business students invited to X-Culture Global Symposium

| Rachel Baarson

This is the second year UWEC business students have been invited X-Culture Global symposium. Business students: Allison Clemens, Andrea Gonzalez, David Hathaway, and Emily Charneski are among a select pool of students worldwide accepted to participate in the Global X-Culture Conference and Symposium this summer in Calgary, Canada. Last year Brittany Haubner and Shauna Parish were the first Blugolds ever accepted to the symposium, an invite based on scores from a semester long project, which combines the efforts of international business students, instructors from 140 universities in 40 countries, and global businesses interested in harnessing the budding expertise of students in solving their real-life business concerns.

Dr. Longzhu Dong, assistant professor of marketing and management at UW-Eau Claire, requires participation in the X-Culture project for all students in his management course, "Cross-Cultural Leadership," a program elective. Hundreds of students have taken the course and completed X-Culture projects over Dong's tenure on faculty.

"This is the second year my students have been accepted to the symposium. These four students each scored in the top 0.3 percent among 5,500-plus participating students around the world," Dong said. "This year, they invited 500 students to apply to the symposium, and my four students were among the 150 finalists selected to attend."

The X-Culture organization was designed to create a real global workplace that gives students inimitable hands-on experience. Each semester, participating students are assigned to international teams of five or six members charged with solving a real-life challenge facing one of 12-14 participating global businesses. Teams must collaborate across time zones and language barriers to find an answer to the challenge in the time allowed and present a cohesive and complete business plan for implementation. Through the course of the semester, each individual team member's contribution to the plan is scored by a committee of international business leaders, and invitations to attend the culminating symposium are based on those scores.  

"The companies benefit from what is essentially free consulting services from the students, and the students gain work and cross-cultural collaboration experience that cannot be replicated in the classroom," Dong described.

Emily Charneski, a human resource management major, will graduate May '19, used this opportunity to help land a job before graduation with an international company. 

“My group included students from Minneapolis, France, and Thailand. We created a market expansion project for La Teresita who is a tea company in Colombia,” said Charneski. “We started by researching different areas around South America that would be interested in tea products and companies that would be worth the expansion/marketing investment. The plan then included selling tea in stores in Peru and increasing their online presence so consumers from all over the world could buy La Teresita tea products. In addition to deciding where to sell, we researched and made recommendations on how to market La Teresita products in Peru.”

“This project was definitely a new experience, I have worked on group projects all throughout my college career, but this was project unique. I had to work and communicate with students whose first language was not English and who were not on the same time zone as me. I have accepted a job with an international company and I believe this experience is beneficial in advancing my career toward my goal of working and living internationally. In addition, the symposium will be a great opportunity to grow my network by meeting other business professionals and students from 40 different countries.”

David Hathaway, a senior double majoring in management and marketing and minoring in military science, used his knowledge from the ROTC program and this experience to pursue a career in an international organization after graduation.

“This past fall I was in Longzhu’s international business class where we had to partake in the X-Culture project,” Hathaway said. “This project we are partnered with a group of students from all over the world and are tasked with partnering with an international organization to help solve an issue or task that they want to do. My group consisted of students from Thailand, France, and Minnesota.” 

“This experience has helped me in many ways. I am a part of the ROTC program on campus and am commissioning as a 2LT in the army following graduation. Through ROTC we are focusing on developing our leadership; throughout the project I was selected as the team leader, which helped me continue to develop my leadership attributes and competencies, which relate to the leadership that I will need in my career following graduation,” said Hathaway.

As a semester project team leader, Hathaway feels that the symposium experience will further expand his skill set and help him pursue an international career path.

“This project also helped me realize that I would like to work in an international organization and do a job that partners with individuals from other nations,” said Hathaway.

Andrea Gonzalez, a senior majoring in management and minoring in marketing, used this experience to help her broaden her horizons and step outside her comfort zone.

“Participating in X-Culture has helped me understand the importance of intercultural communication and experiences. Within my academics, I am now more comfortable working with students and faculty from different backgrounds,” says Gonzalez. “This project has also helped me gain problem-solving skills because it was difficult at times to work with others from around the world with differing opinions and schedules. This project has also helped me with my job search. In every interview I’ve had, I’ve spoken about this project and each time, the employer is very impressed and curious to hear more. In my opinion, everyone should have the opportunity to work with and learn from a diverse group of others because it enhances our knowledge and open mindedness.”

In contrast to the semester long projects, the symposium format follows a theme — last year, "Culture & The Arts" — and takes collaborators out of the purely virtual realm and into an in-person, fast-paced collaboration experience even more akin to current realities of international business. After seven weeks of virtual communication, teams work together in Calgary, Canada for one week, fine-tuning their reports and preparing presentations.

UW-Eau Claire has made it a priority to empower students with real-life learning opportunities and high-impact experiences like this. We strive to provide students with the tools and resources they need to pursue impactful opportunities.

The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs was able to offer a portion of the funds, and the College of Business was pleased to be able to supplement that amount with additional funding toward the international costs.