Welcome to the official “Managing Across Cultures” 2014 blog. This almost three-week-long University of Colorado Denver summer study-abroad course in Southern Italy focuses on global communication, development of intercultural awareness, in particular for Italy, and the exploration of hands-on management with a global mindset. While the course equips us with the theoretical tools, we set off on navigating contemporary Italy step by step, with all its natural beauty, cultural richness, and complex heritage. Based in the charming town of Sorrento, nestled between the Amalfi coast and vibrant Naples, we explored close and far. Together we explored the art-historical wonders and modern vibrancy of Rome and Naples, the beauty of the world heritage sites of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, the living geological complexities of the active volcano Vesuvio, as well as Pompeii, the island of Capri, and all the charm of Sorrento itself. We explored various aspects of Italian life, from the magnificent cuisine, the world of fashion and advertising, important topics in Italian society such as the various facets of communication, patriarchy, masculinity and femininity, and regional characteristics. As a group we started as a diverse and loose bunch, and together grew and bonded into a caring and effective unit, in mirror image of a real familia napolitana. And all this was accomplished while being keen intellectual learners, making the most out of the comprehensive theory researched and presented together in class, as well as Italian language classes offered by our host in Sorrento, Sant’Anna Institute.
The aim of this course, of transforming the participants into culturally aware world travelers, with a heightened sense of comprehension of Italian national identity was more than successfully reached: The individuals grew together as a group in a challenging environment that often pushed them past the boundaries of their comfort zones, and managed to link up all the empirical experiences gained with the theoretical tools learned. The end product is now a group of experts ready for future cross-cultural exploration and leadership challenges that the modern business world and globalized study and work environments will throw at them. Through reflective session, journal writing, culture-specific readings, field work for final research projects, and this blog development, we used critical thinking skills to help us better understand and locate our personal experience in Italy. Intercultural dialogues with the global mindset led us to examine our individual and collective identities as citizens of the world and members of a global community and economy. This experience also made us revisit and rethink our perceptions of “self” and “other”.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM LEADERS:
Julia Khrebtan is professor of Communication, as well as director and leader of this study abroad program, “Managing across Cultures”. She is a former lecturer of Italian studies, with particular focus on Italian national identity and film. Also known by her students as la mamma chioccia, she greatly enjoys the experience of teaching and growing together during this study abroad course, and exploring one of the most culturally rich places on earth, Italy, with such brilliant young minds.
Philip Horhager, co-leader of this program, is a manager for a leading global aviation company, and was fortunate enough to share his experiences of working and leading diverse teams in large organizations with this amazing study-abroad group. Bringing empirical data from complex organizations as well as the shared every day experiences of living together on the Napolitano coast, he was constantly challenged by the keen minds of these intercultural experts in the making.
Grazie mille to Stephen John Hartnett (Chair, Department of Communication), John Sunnygard (Director, Global Education), and the entire UCD team for the promotion and realization of the program. Extended grazie infinite to Sue Pendell (Chair, Department of Communication) and the entire CSU team for their support of the program. Finally, grazie di tutto cuore to our Italian partners at Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento, and above all to our wonderful students, world-travelers eager to explore the fascinating world of the “other!”