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CSUF Students Learn How to Manage a Multicultural Workforce by Studying Abroad in France

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Earlier this month, 19 CSUF students traveled to Aix-en-Provence, France, to spend three weeks taking a class while immersing themselves in French culture. The class they are taking, “Organizational Behavior” (MGMT 340), was recently approved to be offered in a study abroad format. The course focuses on how to be an effective manager, and by allowing students to immerse themselves in a new culture and have visits with business owners and managers to understand how they help their workers to be more engaged and productive, students are given the unique opportunity to learn how to manage a multicultural workforce.

The program is led by Atul Teckchandani, associate professor of management. “Growing up in a different country affects an individual’s values, behaviors, attitudes and perceptions. But most of what we teach students is U.S.-centric. We assume that the way we manage people in the U.S. will be effective everywhere. This is a very bad assumption — and I wanted the students to see that firsthand,” said Teckchandani.

The students are noticing how different life in Aix compares to Orange County. It is clear the French are “more connected to each other” said fourth-year marketing and information systems major Valeria Bianco. Melissa Fernandes, a fourth-year psychology major echoed this difference, “I especially like the time they take to enjoy each other’s presence.” In contrast to the hustle of life in Orange County, “time slows down here,” said Evelyn Mireles, a fourth-year accounting and business analytics major.

To help students take in these differences and use them to develop the skills needed to manage a global workforce, the course began with a primer on the French worker. Students learned about key French labor laws, the typical values of a French worker, the benefits available to French workers and what is it like to work in France. “Our study abroad partner was able to arrange for a local professor to provide a very nice introduction of the experiences of the French workers. He taught us so much and I’ve been able to lead much more meaningful conversations with the students about how managing workers in the U.S. would be similar to or different from managing workers in France,” said Teckchandani.

The students have been enjoying their time abroad. They are learning about wines from the Provence region of France and how to cook some common French dishes. On the weekends, they are taking trips to Nice, Cannes, Monaco, Paris, Barcelona and even Disneyland Paris.

The experience has been life-changing, with students having memorable experiences and forming lifelong bonds with each other. Fourth-year marketing major Kayla Long believes everyone should study abroad. “I never thought in a million years I would be in France, let alone Europe! As a transfer and first-generation student, I never thought it was possible for me. I don’t even know what possessed me to apply but I did and I’m glad I did because I’m able to have the best, once in a lifetime experience. I have become so close with my abroad mates and my professor. You never know what could happen, take a chance on yourself and apply. You won’t regret it.”

Atul Teckchandani