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Working Across Borders Provides Global Business Experience for Northwood Students

November 15, 2021

Business today is conducted in a global environment, where differences in everything from culture to time zones affect how things get done.

A select group of students at Northwood University has an opportunity to experience these challenges up close as part of the Working Across Borders project. Northwood is one of 14 schools worldwide participating in the project and the only one in the United States.

Northwood associate professor Christin Greiman has incorporated the Working Across Borders project into her honors section of Organizational Behavior, including ten students.

Beyond simply earning course credit, the benefits for Northwood students are many.

“Our students will apply course concepts in an international consultancy project for Garcia,” said Greiman. “They will work through global business and cultural challenges with their international teammates to solve a business problem for their client. After analyzing a particular country’s economic, political, social, and cultural environment, their team will pitch a solution to Garcia’s quest to blend true pricing with the Sustainability Development Goals from the UN to a specific customer in a new target market. This is an amazing opportunity to bring students together around the world to solve business problems. We are excited and honored to be the only university in the U.S. currently working on this project.”

Working Across Borders provides students with the opportunity to explore the challenges of doing business across the globe, acting as a business consultant for Dutch apparel brand Garcia. An international company specializing in denim/jeans manufacturing, Garcia products are sold in 35 countries. Originally founded in Italy, Garcia is now headquartered in Ablasserdam, in the Netherlands, with more than 1,000 employees across Europe.

The ten Northwood students join more than 600 students from Durham College in Canada, Inholland University in The Netherlands, Doba University in Slovenia, CIS in Italy, Laurea UAS in Finland, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Kazakhstan, the University of National Business in Kazakhstan, the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Russia, Binus University in Indonesia, University Del Istmo in Guatemala, UCLL in Belgium, Communication Technology University in Ghana, and West Ukrainian National University in Ukraine. The two largest contingents are from UCLL and Durham.

“I am excited to expand my impact to an international project,” said Randall Madison, an operations and supply chain management student at Northwood. “Going into this, I was nervous, but after meeting my team, I am excited to get to work on this project. This is why I came to Northwood, to get hands-on experience in real-world situations, and this project allows me to do just that.”

International students are divided into 126 teams consisting of five students each. Each group is assigned a coach, usually a professor, at one of the participating universities. Greiman and Professor Thomas Kratzin are serving as coaches representing Northwood. While the team can meet with the coach and present its findings before submission, the onus is on the team to develop a plan and execute it. Each team will produce a seven-minute video showing its analysis and proposal pitch results. They will then research a country and analyze its economic, political, social, and cultural environment. Finally, the teams will develop ideas for business opportunities to help achieve one or more UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Teams will collaborate virtually using a video conference platform. Scheduling and division of work are up to the individual groups.

Students are tasked with helping Garcia determine the impact of marketing jeans that reflect their “true price.” The actual price of a good is the market price plus the social and environmental costs of a product. That includes activities at all value chain steps, from water and energy use to developing raw materials through milling, manufacturing, transport, and more.

Students will research consumer willingness to pay the actual price in various countries. Their final proposal to Garcia will demonstrate how they would market the value of accurate pricing to Garcia’s audience.

Selling jeans at the right price can help Garcia and the rest of the fashion industry transition to a sustainable business model. With almost 2 billion pairs of jeans produced each year (each person in the world owns an average of six pairs of jeans), this is a high-potential area to achieve sustainability goals. Garcia will implement the ideas from the students if they are viable and will contribute to the client’s 2030 sustainable business goals.

Northwood was invited to participate by Rogier Ten Kate, a native of the Netherlands who earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwood in 1994. Ten Kate is now a program coordinator for the international business program at Durham College. “Last year, we were exploring an international articulation and areas of collaboration,” said Northwood, assistant vice president of Free-Market Partnerships and International Programs Mamiko Reeves. “When I updated him on the Northwood University Computerized Automotive Retail Simulation (NUCARS) development, he mentioned he had launched a similar program and talked about the success of Working Across Borders. He invited us to join, and Northwood’s international business curriculum will benefit from incorporating experiential learning opportunities like this.”

Ten Kate said Northwood is a natural for the Working Across Borders initiative.

“Working Across Borders takes the power of the global classroom and unlocks potential for international business opportunities,” said Ten Kate. “In the project, students have to overcome many challenges, and we ask them to explore new ways of collaborating effectively across many different cultures. The project offers students unique learning opportunities and challenges them to find new ways to understand how international business is conducted and solve complex real business problems.”

“Working for an actual client puts a bit more pressure on the students as they have to perform well and deliver a sustainable business solution to the client,” he added. “I am proud and honored that Northwood is part of this year’s project. Northwood is a wonderful addition to the project team, and I hope their contribution and participation will grow and expand in the years to come.”

Teams are asked to be creative in developing ideas on how Garcia can market its jeans at the right price. In particular, they are being asked to look at activities in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Austria, South Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan.

Teams will make their pitch in December 2021 to a Working Across Borders committee. The top presentations will be forwarded to Garcia.

Students first had to complete an individual orientation phase to participate in the projects, including creating a brief personal video and a short multiple-choice quiz. After being divided into teams, each team will have to complete a team orientation phase before delving fully into the project.

The Durham College International Education Office supports this initiative to impart the importance of sustainability on a generation of young professionals, ensuring a bright and green future for international business without crossing geographic boundaries.

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