BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Forty-four students at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the Athens University of Economics and Business recently wrapped a joint case project studying a highly successful Greek business startup, e-satisfaction. The project – done virtually — was the inaugural activity of a new formal collaboration between the two business schools.
In May, Kelley and the Athens University of Economics and Business signed a Memorandum of Intent for Collaboration, which represents the first step toward further collaboration on education, academic programs and research. The two schools eventually intend to create student and faculty exchanges and pursue other joint programs.
“This agreement is another example of how the Kelley School provides students with international opportunities that go far beyond cultural exchange to providing them with experience dealing with critical business issues, whether they are faced by firms in New York, Shanghai or – in this instance – Athens,” said Ash Soni, executive associate dean for academic programs, professor of operations and decision technologies and the SungKyunKwan Professor.
“While many understand the Greek economy to be dependent on tourism, it also is increasingly becoming more entrepreneurial in nature, with companies like the one our students worked with doing innovative things. That’s where we want to be,” Soni added.
Origins for the collaboration with AUEB can be traced to a Kelley course taught by Tatiana Kolovou, senior lecturer of business communication and a native of Greece. Over the last decade she has taken more than 300 Kelley School undergraduates and MBA students to Greece as part of immersion courses about the country, its economy and culture. Traditionally, they visit companies, meet with business professionals and do consulting projects for Greek companies.
Although IU study abroad courses were cancelled this year and last year because of Covid-19, the Kelley School has continued to pursue immersive, international experiences for students. In 2020, Kolovou was honored for her efforts with one of the annual Greek Tourism Awards sponsored by the Greek Ministry of Tourism. A year earlier, Kolovou was profiled in a major Greek publication and was called in the headline, “the Greek professor in the U.S. who teaches her students to love our country.”
As a result of the memorandum, 22 students in Kolovou’s “Business Culture of Greece” course pivoted and worked with 22 students at Athens School of Economics and Business to create a case study for e-satisfaction and its CEO. Teams were created with members from each school.
“Working with students from another university in Greece was exciting and rewarding. Learning about a different culture through a case taught me valuable lessons on how to communicate effectively with time barriers, differing work ethic strategies, and differing backgrounds,” said Kennedy Day, a junior majoring in marketing from Jasper, Indiana.
Nolan Buck, a junior studying marketing and professional sales from Cincinnati, Ohio, overcame his initial concerns about effectively working remotely with his Greek counterparts.
“It’s one thing to learn about the business culture of a country, but actually working with the people we learned about is something completely different. We had spent so much of class discussing social norms and cues that must be followed in a business setting. By the time the project began, I was more concerned with getting to know my Greek teammates than I was with the actual case,” Buck said.
“This experience is something I will never forget. Covid has done a lot to hinder my education and my college experience, but this class and project gave me the opportunity to learn in a global setting during the pandemic.”
e-satisfaction.com is a technology company based in Athens that offers a customer engagement platform that makes consumer feedback easier to obtain and be acted on by omnichannel retailers. It is used by more than 300 companies, including many online retailers.
“We were very pleased to participate in this exceptional initiative, which was a useful opportunity for us to discuss the challenges we face and to hear ideas from groups of very talented students,” said Vangelis Kotsonis, the company’s CEO. “I was personally impressed by how quickly they overcame the time difference and the challenges of remote collaboration and how they managed in such a short time to work as a team, to understand our challenges and to make suggestions. That gave us real value for our next steps.”
Students at each institution received certificates from the other business school.
“Our students learned how to work together effectively between different time zones, different ways of thinking and business models,” Kolovou said. “As an academic, I am very pleased to have contributed to the creation of a learning framework that simulates the reality of the business world. As a Greek, I am proud that our students contributed ideas and suggestions to the strategic dialogue of e-satisfaction, a very innovative Greek start-up, led by an impressive management team.”
Vassilis Papadakis, vice rector of international cooperation and growth at Athens University of Economics and Business and director of its executive MBA program, said he hopes to host Kelley students and faculty next year.
“We hope that this is the beginning of a long-term mutually beneficial cooperation, which we aspire to extend to joint research, teaching, exchange of students and teachers, in postgraduate programs and other academic activities,” he added.
For their part, Buck and Day said their experience in the course whet their appetite for international study experiences.
“Study abroad is something I have always wanted to do, so this experience confirmed my belief more than anything else,” Buck said. “It’s hard to get a good feel of a country’s culture from your own bedroom, so I still plan to study abroad and this experience has made me more excited than ever.”
“My group worked very well together, and we were able to make meaningful friendships,” Day said. “We plan to continue to keep in touch. If the time ever comes that I am able to visit Greece, I would love to meet up with them.”