Where Heritage Meets Multinational Management

A student holds up pictures while someone takes a photo with a cell phone.

As you walk through the college, you hear the strains of music. The smell of food tantalizes. And as you enter a classroom, you see cultural artifacts from across the globe. Yes, this is a business class! You are entering one of Dr. Jennifer Palthe’s management courses on multinational management or international human resource management, where students learn about international management topics, global trends impacting multinational firms and various dimensions of cross-cultural management, while also gaining a healthy appreciation for their own cultural heritage and the cultures of others.

As part of these courses, students have to prepare a personal cultural heritage paper and present an artifact related to their culture. Why is this assignment on personal ancestry important to have alongside global management topics? “Many students report discovering things about their family heritage that they never knew previously,” says Palthe, professor of management. “This experience serves to strengthen students’ awareness of their cultural identities and how those identities influence their personal behaviors or preferences today. Students get to share artifacts associated with their heritage with their classmates such as a flag, ornament, heirloom or food item. This promotes conversations among students with similar or vastly contrasting family histories.”

Palthe’s courses explore globalization, business ethics, global technology, the emerging role of women in business worldwide and the changing nature of the global workforce.

Students also learn about the business practices of other countries, including differences in handshakes, hand gestures, and time and space orientation. By learning about these variances, students gain a stronger appreciation for how managers from nations with a more indirect communication style and fluid time orientation may perceive managers from a nation with a more direct communication style and fixed time orientation. “We also explore various cross-cultural dimensions such as individualism, collectivism, power distance, locus of control and long-term orientation, says Palthe. “These dimensions provide students with a framework to analyze value differences and enhance their understanding of behavioral variations around the world.”