Business professor secures Fulbright award

Contact: Stacey Anderson

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Tim Palmer, professor of management and director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, has earned a highly competitive Fulbright Specialist Award from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Palmer plans to incorporate several elements of his teaching experience at a partner institution, with the goal of developing the international project in a way that would mutually benefit that institution, their faculty and students, and WMU and his students.

See the impact of service learning on students

Business class completes 3,700+ hours of service in one semester

“One skill I hope to share is implementing service learning at scale,” says Palmer. “I have used service learning as a key pedagogy since 2005, and it is a part of every course I teach. Not only is service learning relatively rare in business schools, it is very uncommon in any discipline in large auditorium classes. Each semester, my course generates nearly 4,000 hours of service to community partners. I hope to share what I have learned about service learning with another institution.”

Since the inception of the Fulbright Specialist Program in 2001, faculty from the Haworth College of Business have received this award four times.

The project

Palmer identifies several core parts to his project. First, he would help a partner institution develop curriculum that would fit well with service learning. “While you can insert service learning into any class, it works most effectively when faculty and students can see clearly how it helps accomplish a course’s learning objectives. Aside from curriculum development, I have a lot of experience implementing service learning. Working with 250 students and nearly 20 partners every semester requires systems that simplify the process—everything from recruiting partners for projects, to methods for student sign-up, to monitoring student engagement, and finally assessing student learning.”

Palmer’s long-term goal is to help his host institution develop a business course similar to the Business Ethics and Sustainability course at WMU. “The Haworth College of Business requires a sustainability class of all its graduates. Outside WMU, most universities attempt to integrate sustainability throughout the curriculum, but with limited success. I hope to work with international faculty to build a sustainability course that would fit their curriculum.”

Dr. Tim Palmer

He also envisions teaching at the partner institution or conducting workshops and seminars on topics such as assurance of learning—where he has more than 20 years of expertise.

His participation in the Fulbright program will bring tremendous benefit to his students at WMU. “Because this is not the first immersive experience I have had with international colleagues, I can say with certainty that it will have a strong influence on my teaching. The most straightforward connection would be how I structure my yearly India study abroad. The more exposure I have had to complex sustainability issues in India, the more I can build related components into future study abroad trips.”

Palmer also integrates international modules into his Business Ethics and Sustainability course. “My position has always been that while outsourcing and offshoring can benefit a firm and that globalization is a good thing, students have little understanding about living conditions in the developing world. Because of my direct experiences, I am able to talk with students about struggles such as child trafficking, gender inequalities or food insecurity that are often at levels beyond comprehension for most of WMU’s domestic students.”

Palmer’s growing experiences positioned him for this recognition. “It is an honor to be selected to join the Fulbright Specialist Program. If you had asked me five years ago if I felt qualified to apply for such an award, I would have emphatically said, ‘no.’ However, I have been fortunate these last few years to be offered opportunities that have changed my career trajectory. It all started when Dr. Satish Deshpande, who was then an associate dean at the college, asked me to join him for lunch with Dr. Suniti Phadke, dean of international relations at Christ University in India. They were interested in finding a faculty member who could bring students on a short-term study abroad trip to Bangalore. I am so glad I said yes. This is a message I tell students constantly as they look for passion and meaning in their careers. In my case, being open to a new, uncertain opportunity made all the difference. The Fulbright award is a wonderful affirmation that I have been successful in building new dimensions of my career. It all started by saying yes.”

Palmer stands with a group of MBA students.

Palmer received the Michigan Campus Compact Faculty and Staff Community Service Learning Award in 2009, the 2014 Distinguished Professor of the Year Award from the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, and WMU’s 2014 nomination for the Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year Award. He has also received the Haworth College of Business faculty service and teaching awards. His research on student learning, organizational reputation, sustainability and strategic decision-making has appeared in numerous publications, including Academy of Management Learning and Education, Journal of Management, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Organization Research Methods, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal.

About the Fulbright Specialist Program

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and other countries. The program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program, which operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.

Fulbrighters address critical global issues in all disciplines, while building relationships, knowledge and leadership in support of the long-term interests of the United States. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists and teachers. They include 60 Nobel Laureates, 86 Pulitzer Prize winners, 74 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors.

More information is available on the Fulbright Program's webpage.

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