KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two faculty members from the Haworth College of Business recently helped lead an international conference that intentionally blurs the lines between business, service, social impact and geography. Drs. Melissa Intindola and Laurel Ofstein, both associate professors of management, helped organize panel discussions for the Let Us Dream Conference, an initiative hosted by Christ University in India that positions academics and practitioners from around the world to collaborate on building a better tomorrow.
“The conference is the most collaborative event I’ve ever worked on,” says Intindola. “Participants from all over the globe came together to organize, present at and attend the virtual conference. At WMU, we view collaboration as a pillar—our engagement, in our communities and beyond—it's a driving force of our University. And for the Haworth College of Business, the idea of ‘business as usual’ is no longer an appropriate guiding mechanism. Businesses are now being tasked with considering their impact on the world at large. Participation in events like Let Us Dream are an important step toward recognizing and taking responsibility for our greater role in society.”
Involving more than 50 speakers from over 15 universities and 50 community service organizations, the undertaking was massive and highlighted topics in a wide variety of areas. Ofstein organized a panel about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on community response services, and Intindola coordinated a panel on animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
“It was a great experience to see the inner workings of an international conference,” says Ofstein. “Pre-COVID-19, the conference would often rotate between partner schools involved in the planning. It would be an amazing opportunity to attend such an event in person in the future. The ability to network not only with other academics but with the many practitioners who participate would be a great experience. As WMU becomes more interdisciplinary, research and practice blend and are less distinct. There is great potential for future research across disciplines.”
Connections are key at this event, and both Intindola and Ofstein benefited personally and can see further possibilities for faculty and student involvement.
“It was truly amazing to watch the collaboration that occurred across cultures,” says Intindola. “I was impressed with how the conference organizers drew everyone together and rallied us behind the central mission of collaboration to ensure the conference’s success. I teach about the importance of collaboration and research it as well. Watching it occur on such a global scale broadened even my understanding of how we can truly all work together.”
Ofstein agrees and envisions more faculty and students participating in future events in order to build understanding of social responsibility, intercultural fluency and how business can be a force for good in communities. “This effort also helps to strengthen our partnership with Christ University, which in turn makes both universities stronger,” she notes.
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