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Geneva Sedgwick, Caren Rodrigues

Using Technology for Intercultural Exchange, Collaboration and Teamwork: A Jesuit Model

In this paper, we describe the methodology and findings of a pilot pedagogical project between two Jesuit business schools, Albers Business School in the US and St. Joseph’s Institute of Management in India. The aim of this pedagogical initiative was threefold. First and chiefly, the project gave students in the two business schools a costless opportunity to work in virtual teams across geographies and cultures on a graded business-related project. Second and as a related point, students were exposed to intercultural differences in communication and working style in a virtual setting, during which they were encouraged to undertake Ignatian-style reflective exercises. Third, we explored how we might more easily exchange faculty members across international boundaries to “guest lecture” relevant classes. This paper explains the details of our project which included a cross-cultural exchange, joint lectures taught by the authors, an extensive collaborative research and writing assignment, and reflection inspired by Jesuit pedagogy. All aspects of the project were facilitated by technology including Zoom, online learning platforms and WhatsApp. The paper also includes findings and implications. Specifically with regard to Ignatian pedagogy, we found three striking findings. First, facilitating students to get to know each other, before they actually started working on the project, was beneficial. This was because students first got to understand the “whole personhood” of their team members, and indeed reported that the similar COVID-19 related experiences they had across boundaries cancelled out the differences and helped them work together better. Second, in classic Jesuit spiritual style, we required students to reflect twice during the project. Students reported predominantly positive experiences, although they did mention some negative experiences resulting out of miscommunication and different working styles. Through reflection, students reported that they were able to discern the best strategies to overcome differences, for this project and in future cross-cultural situations. Finally, a setup like this was costless, and even after the pandemic, can serve as a blueprint to give students in Jesuit schools all the benefits of an international faculty or student exchange program within budgetary constraints and the course criteria of individual business schools.