College of Business & Economics
Why did you go to Panama this summer?
“I volunteered to teach MGNT 438: Multinational Management and Culture. I had 23 students enrolled in the course, but there are approximately 200 students enrolled in TU’s Panama Program.”
Tell me a little more about TU’s Panama Program and how it benefits students?
“The Panama Program allows students who live in Panama to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Towson University through a partnership with Quality Leadership University in Panama City. From a financial perspective, it is cost-effective for students because they can take classes face-to-face with American professors at a campus that is convenient for them.
"Students learn that it is better to manage people as individuals, not as a group or culture."
“It is a great opportunity for students to learn about multicultural management from TU faculty who come from very diverse demographic backgrounds. Students learn that it is better to manage people as individuals, not as a group or culture. The program is also very flexible. Students enrolled in the program have the option of studying at TU’s main campus and American students have the option of studying in Panama. In fact, one of the students in my class this summer was an American citizen who chose to study in Panama.”
Did you change your teaching method at all?
“I did have to change my teaching method, but not substantially. We met every day from 8 a.m. to noon with two, 15-minute breaks. I had to use more group exercises and other activities like role-playing to break up the monotony of the long lectures.
“On the first day of class, I only had three students show up on time at 8 a.m., so I decided to give a short multiple-choice quiz every day at 8 a.m. to make sure that students came on time. Those who came late would have to accept a zero on the quiz or take a much harder essay quiz. By the end of the first week, I did not have any more problems with students being late. The whole experience taught me the importance of being flexible and adjusting my teaching style to fit different groups of students.”
How did you benefit from teaching in another country?
“My students exposed me to a very different culture. They taught me a lot! I knew before I left for Panama that students there might have different learning styles than my students at TU. I was told that the Panamanian students could be very talkative in class to the point of being rowdy. I thought to myself, ‘How can I transform that talkativeness to active class discussion?’ By working my expectation for class discussion into the syllabus and quizzing the students about the content of the syllabus for extra credit on the first day of class, I was able to minimize potentially disruptive classroom behavior and had a lively discussion in almost every class. I think that instead of focusing on cultural differences, we should focus on the similarities in our values, such as academic excellence and success.
“Teaching in Panama also made me appreciate what we often take for granted in the U.S. America is beautiful from afar and I think has a lot to offer to the rest of the world. For example, all of my Panamanian students were eager to learn about the American business model. My students had a thirst for knowledge that was evident in class discussions. I was glad to be able to share some of my research in business ethics with them.”
"Management is a diverse field of study that pulls content from economics, engineering, psychology, sociology and political science."
Describe Panama. What kinds of things did you do there besides teach? Any interesting stories?
“In terms of the weather, Panama City is similar to Florida. I did not have a lot of time to explore the city because of my busy teaching schedule, but I had some free time over the weekends. During the week, I taught in the morning, took a nap after lunch, graded papers, did some leisure reading, and prepared for the next day’s class at night. Getting around was challenging because I do not speak Spanish but everyone was friendly and patient.
“One experience that stands out was the farewell lunch with my Panamanian students. I honestly did not expect a farewell party, especially after an exhausting two-hour final exam. I thought, ‘Who will be in a partying mood after that exam?’ But I was wrong. The students took me to Lung Fung, a Chinese restaurant in Panama City. They brought a small bus to accommodate our large group and during the 20-minute ride to and from the restaurant, I learned more about the city from the students than I had after spending two weeks in the country. We had a ball at the restaurant and I was overwhelmed with the hospitality of the students.”
Any plans to go back?
“Absolutely! I am actually returning to Panama to teach another class next June.”
Why do you encourage students to study management?
“Management is a diverse field of study that pulls content from economics, engineering, psychology, sociology and political science. By studying management, students are given the knowledge to manage people with a global perspective in a variety of settings, from financial institutions and hospitals to information technology firms. Even if students do not become managers after they graduate, they can become successful self-managers.”