In this section, we travel around the world with six alumni, two students and one professor who all have shaped the world in different ways through their experiences and have also been shaped by the countries, cultures and business environments in which they live, work and study.
Kalamazoo to Korea
Q and A with
Aimee Jachym, B.B.A., B.A.’04
Attorney, Miller Canfield
President, Korean Kids and Orphanage
Outreach Mission (KKOOM)
You founded Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission. Can you share why you founded the organization?
The short answer is, KKOOM was founded out of necessity because people wanted to help Korean orphans, and from 2004 to 2007, there was more money coming into my personal checking account than I knew what to do with.
The longer version of the story begins in 2004. After graduating from WMU, I went to Korea to teach English on a Fulbright scholarship, and I also wanted to volunteer at an orphanage. I began tutoring two high school boys in English. As I got to know more about the boys and the other children at the orphanage, I wanted to be able to do more. At the time, I didn’t really speak Korean, so it was hard to communicate with the kids and the staff. Based on my observations and what I was able to glean from limited conversation, it seemed like the younger children could use new toys, and the staff told me that the kids needed basic items like socks, underwear and hats and gloves.
I wrote appeal emails and sent them to family and friends and collected around $5,000 within a few weeks. That Christmas when I went home to the U.S., I bought a bunch of toys and mailed them back to Korea, and then a few weeks later back in Korea, I went to one of the large traditional markets and bought tons of the clothes for the kids.
One thing led to another, and the annual giving campaign continued along with new volunteer projects at the orphanage. By 2007, there was a small group of committed volunteers, and we decided to found KKOOM.
Can you detail through an example how KKOOM has impacted the lives of Korean orphans for the better?
A few years ago I got to know a student who grew up in one of the orphanages in which we work. He was a high school senior and had just gotten into Pusan National University, one of the top universities in Korea. He was attending a vocational high school, which was not preparing him to go to college, so in order to gain admission, he studied tirelessly on his own, watching educational videos and using other study materials. In order to get into top Korean colleges, most students attend cram schools and see multiple private tutors regularly. The guy, who I later nicknamed “JD,” defied the odds and began college in 2012. When asked what motivates him to work so hard and succeed in school, JD says that he’s driven
to become successful so he can be a good father, unlike his own biological father who left him in elementary school.
KKOOM provided JD with scholarship funds of about $4,000 to help him pay for a computer, books and living expenses in his first year. After that, we provided $500 per semester for books and living expenses. Last summer, KKOOM sent JD to Boston University for 2 months to learn English and experience American college life. He also spent some time traveling in the U.S. to places like Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and even Kalamazoo, Michigan. JD is now in his last year at university, and he hopes to work for Hyundai, Samsung or another major company.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a nonprofit internationally or domestically but to benefit and international population?
Develop an intimate understanding of the population you seek to help. This probably means you need to go there and learn the local language. Find out what other organizations are doing similar work. Perhaps you don’t need to form your own organization, and you can join a movement started by others. I think there’s tremendous value in collaboration and learning from others, so try to recruit others who are smarter and more experienced than you. Finally, any nonprofit needs a good fund development plan, because you need money to help others. If you’re not willing to raise money, you probably won’t be a very successful nonprofit leader.
How did your WMU education help prepare you for the work you do today?
I had a well-balanced mix of classes during my time at WMU, both in the college of business and across campus. This gave me a broad perspective on local and global issues and gave me a solid base upon which to build my career. I also had great professors who became wonderful mentors and friends—people like Dr. Jennifer Palthe, Dr. Sime Curkovic and Dr. Ann Veeck. They all encouraged me to study abroad and travel, and I’m grateful for that advice. A world view is absolutely imperative regardless of one’s field of expertise.
Developing a New Comfort Zone
Since Eddie Mulford was a child, he has traveled to visit family in both Costa Rica and the Netherlands, and that experience ignited a passion to explore different countries and cultures. “I have dreamed of studying abroad since I was 10,” says Mulford. “The people we met and new experiences we had when traveling inspired me. I knew I would want to study abroad during college and have a job that would allow me to travel. I find I learn the most about others and myself when put in situations where I am not completely comfortable and have to problem-solve.”
Mulford has noticed many contrasts during his study abroad in Germany. “First, I can take my time exploring,” says Mulford. “Living in another country has been completely different from any trip I have taken. In the past, I would travel somewhere and try to see everything I could in the short period I was there. Being in Germany for an extended stay has allowed me to relax my adventure and spend more time in detailed exploring. I take the same walks to the University and city center every day, yet I still see new things. Days sitting in a café and studying German while observing people have been some of the best.”
Mulford, a constant observer, has also noted many differences in business practices in Germany, including professional distance in the workplace. An integrated supply management major, Mulford has learned about a variety of business topics and sought out opportunities to see Germany’s renowned logistics and manufacturing quality during his stay.
Mulford was attracted to Germany due to its complex history and its business environment as well as the ability to travel to other countries in Europe during his breaks. For Mulford, this experience has been life-changing. From studying the language, culture and history of the country to witnessing the influx of Syrian refugees firsthand, he is learning a great deal about other cultures and histories. “It is a globalized world, and I had not realized how little I knew about the rest of the world. I would feel bad talking with new people as they knew so much about America while I knew barely anything about their country. I have grown to have even more of an interest for cultures, politics, businesses and traditions from around the world. I have friends now from many countries and learn from them each day.”
Thomas Thrasher, B.B.A.’85 Jakarta, Indonesia
Senior Partner, KPMG Indonesia
Industry: Public accounting
I have been living overseas for 25 years.
- I practiced public accounting in Detroit; Los Angeles; Taipei, Taiwan; and Jakarta, Indonesia.
- I am the audit partner-in-charge for Indonesia.
- I am the national energy and natural resources practice leader for Indonesia.
Witsakorn Srisakul, MBA’90
Managing Director, 3X Logistics Co., Ltd.
Industry: Logistics, customs brokerage and international freight
Career Snapshot: I have been working in the international environment with global companies for more than 25 years since graduating from WMU. My career in sales and marketing has been with UPS, FedEx, APL Logistics, DHL Global Forwarding, TNT and now 3X Logistics. I have held key management positions to drive the success of each company’s business plan.
Accomplishments in my career include:
- Increasing the market share of FedEx in Thailand from No. 4 to No. 2 in two years.
- Managing large global accounts such as Celestica, Microchip Technology, Philips, Nokia and Ericsson through offering world-class logistics solutions such as international transport; warehousing and distribution; and customs brokerage services.
- Starting a new cross-border trucking service to nearby countries: Laos, Malaysia and Singapore.
Ankit Kedia, B.B.A.’06
Director, Manjushree Technopack, Ltd.
Industry: Manufacturing, food and beverage containers
Family: I live in a joint family along with my parents, my brother, my wife Puja and my one-year old daughter Avni, all in one house. My uncle lives next to us with my cousins and grandmother, where we share a common boundary wall. Our greatest strength is living together, which helps create a strong bond of trust and a coaching relationship with the elders. At Manjushree Technopack the board of directors includes four members of my family, including my father, brother, uncle and me.
About my city: Bangalore, also known as the Silicon Valley of India, houses some of the world’s largest IT and software industries. It has a beneficial central location in south India. In earlier days, Bangalore also used to be known as the Garden City with its lush green landscapes and large parks. This city is an important part of the Indian economy and contributes five percent of the Indian GDP.
- I started my career with Manjushree as an associate director with primary responsibility for production planning and control, having no engineering background. I learned on the job and helped set up an independent planning team, ultimately developing an IT tool to automate the planning process.
- In 2010, I joined the board of directors and was given P&L responsibility for the sales and marketing team. I focused on areas where Manjushree barely had a presence. I put my education to use to set up a key account management program within the organization. I also helped to build a dynamic team that helped to gain blue chip clients such as L’Oréal (France) and Diageo (United Kingdom).
- In 2015, Manjushree became the largest convertor of PET in South Asia with annual revenues of $100 million and was recognized by the Indian government for its research and development activities. Our company was the winner of the World Star Award from the World Packaging Organization—the highest recognition in the world for packaging excellence.
Sam Abu Bakar, B.B.A.’93
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
CEO, WMU Capital Resources
- I have worked in the financial industries in Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, and China for almost 20 years.
- Presently, I am CEO of WMU Capital Resources in Malaysia. WMU is a special purpose vehicle company which was newly established in December 2015 as a platform for Private Funds Initiative (PFI) to undertake development projects in the Asia Pacific Region, especially Southeast Asia. Our first project in Malaysia is worth $3 billion to implement development of wireless communication and housing projects.
Saif Yusoof, B.B.A.’06
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Managing Director, Expolanka Freight
- We are rapidly expanding the portfolio of services in the freight and logistics components of the supply chain by introducing new systems in 2016 to warehousing (I Highjump WMS) and in-house-built Transportation TMS.
- We have increased the transport management portfolio from 44 trucks in 2014 to more than 1,200 today.
- We have 740 total permanent employees, and our team is responsible to deliver $98 million of revenue for the current financial year, and looking to surpass projections.
Study Abroad: An Experience of a Lifetime
Senior Alexis Lenderman’s study abroad semester in South Africa has been the best and most daunting part of her educational experience thus far. “The theme for my study abroad experience is ‘overcoming my fears’ because every single thing about this trip has challenged me academically, spiritually and emotionally,” says Lenderman. Gaining the confidence to travel outside the country was Lenderman’s first step in her journey. “I did a two-week study abroad immersion course in the Dominican Republic. Honestly, if I had not done that trip, then I would not have gone to South Africa. I was scared to travel outside of the country, but the Dominican Republic trip was a warm up for me. Now, I’m in love with travelling and seeing the world!”
Lenderman is taking a challenging course load and is a member of eight student clubs and organizations—most of which focus on service. She is dedicated to having an impact in South Africa through volunteerism during her few short months in the country. She is putting her business skills to good use in a social entrepreneurship club, where she is working on a micro-financing project for local entrepreneurs. Lenderman has also been able to learn a great deal about the South African political, economic and class environment as it relates to race as numerous protests focusing on the disparities in education, health care, employment, housing, and services have taken place across the country and on her campus during her time abroad.
To say that this has been a life-changing experience for Lenderman is entirely accurate. “I feel connected with the world and so many people. I have gained confidence in who I am and the mark that I would like to leave on the world. Studying and living abroad will get you in touch with and force you to explore who you are as a person—who you are and who you will become."
Where heritage meets multinational management
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."