Students arrived on the University of La Verne campus Monday toting backpacks and hot coffee, some still sleepy-eyed from months of summer relaxation and others raring to go for the first day of t...
La Verne professor Carol Sawyer helps bridge the gap between Southern California and Prague, Czech Republic, for a group of Charles University sociology students by coordinating a study tour for them from La Verne’s Orange County campus.
When Professor of Organizational Leadership Carol Sawyer was first invited to Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, three years ago, she was to be a visiting lecturer for the students in the Sociology Department. She didn’t know it would be the foundation for what would become an ongoing cross-cultural learning experience for both Charles University and University of La Verne students.
That was in 2009, and since then she has made a trip every year to the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic to offer a global perspective on organization development, as the university works to build its own such degree program.
But this fall, Sawyer didn’t have to travel very far to help make an impact. Professor Dana Mudd of the Charles University Sociology Department decided to take a step further in broadening her students’ international scope; specifically a step in the U.S. to the University of La Verne Orange County Regional Campus in Irvine. The purpose? To take her students on an international organizational leadership study tour.
“Their goal was to experience both academic and organizational settings, engage in rich conversations, and heighten the awareness of tour participants to cultural and environmental differences between organizational life and behavior in Europe and in Southern California,” Sawyer said.
The Irvine campus took the lead in identifying and providing unique educational experiences for the duration of the two-week September visit. The Czech students were welcomed by Regional Campus Director Jane Courcy and Associate Director of Admissions Alison Rodriguez-Balles, who helped arrange the study tour.
With the help of La Verne alumni and faculty, who were gracious enough to share their places of employment, Czech and La Verne students went on a variety of tours that featured variations of organizational settings. Students visited the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, B. Braun Medical Inc.’s manufacturing plant, the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center, and Disneyland, where they interacted with a panel of administrators.
Field trips and classroom visits to graduate courses in consumer behavior, management theory and practice and research methods gave the Czech graduate students an opportunity to share their own research projects and experiences with La Verne’s graduate students.
An example of some of the sophisticated projects shared was that by Blanka Jirkovska, a graduate sociology major. Her independent research included motivation factors and effects on job performance of paramedical staff as well as quantitative research on satisfaction and social climates in hospitals, a project that required the interviewing of hundreds of employees.
“We were not just helping them,” Sawyer said. “They were helping us by giving back in terms of sharing research that they have already completed.”
What made the study tour rich and rewarding for all students wasn’t just the wealth of knowledge shared, but the depth of understanding and appreciation gained for one another’s work and talents.
“It was amazing to realize that students from all over the world, no matter what language they speak or what background they come from, they all have something in common, they care, support, and help each other,” said Hamad Khalifa AlDubaib, a current graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in leadership and management.
“I will remember the warmth and openness of people who took care of us,” said Petra Otavova, a Charles University sociology graduate student. “They always had time to show us [around], to teach us, to spend their time with us, even [though] they worked as professors and CEOs of the companies.”
The study tour exemplified what is at the core of organizational leadership: understanding of intercultural communities and diversity. These are values not only endorsed by the University of La Verne, but carried out by its students, faculty and alumni.