Executive Master of Organization Development students engage in the ‘art of business’ and the ‘business of art’ during international trip

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In a global economy, working with international organizations is common, and understanding cultural differences is a key element of success. As part of the Executive Master of Organization Development (EMOD) program at Bowling Green State University, students gain this perspective in the Exploring International Organization Development course, a vital part of the curriculum since 2014, in which they travel abroad to gain field experience and valuable insights into working and living internationally.

This spring, the 2019 EMOD cohort traveled to the Italian cities of Florence, Padua and Venice, where they visited local businesses and nonprofit organizations. They attended lectures and engaged in experiential learning activities at the Studio Arts College International (SACI) in Florence and Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. The students also participated in a number of cultural activities, including visiting Florence’s Galleria dell’ Accademia to view “David,” Michelangelo’s masterpiece, and Uffizi Gallery, home to priceless works of art by such masters as Botticelli, Caravaggio and Leonardo Da Vinci.

“The 2019 international trip provided a unique experience for the EMOD students to engage in activities that blended art, design, culture, organization development, management and leadership,” said Dr. Deborah A. O’Neil, director of the EMOD program. “Given that the field of organization development is both an art and a science, and that art is the economic and cultural lifeblood of Italy, it was an excellent opportunity to understand the interdependent nature of the business of art and the art of business. It really was an exceptional learning experience on so many levels.”

emodAt SACI, the EMOD cohort learned about a unique project in which the students were working for a major Italian company. The EMOD students participated in brainstorming sessions and provided a business perspective to complement the art students’ design ideas. They also engaged the SACI students in an experiential activity to help them think about designing their future careers by incorporating organization development and business principles.

While in Florence, the cohort also visited two regional organizations. During a visit to the Principe Corsini winery, which has been operating for 500 years, the students learned about the impact of the wine industry on the Italian economy and culture. They also had the opportunity to visit Nosotras, an intercultural women’s association that helps foreign-born women find their footing as newly arrived immigrants in Italy. Working with health care professionals, faculty and linguistic and cultural mediators, Nosotras provides training on a variety of topics. This was an especially beneficial visit as it related directly to one of the capstone projects on which the students were working during their final semester in the EMOD program.

On the way to Venice, the cohort stopped in Padua to visit Peoplerise, an organization-development consulting firm. Flavio Fabiani, a co-creation designer with Peoplerise, provided direct coaching on their capstone projects and led the students through two experiential activities that involved personalized coaching by their cohort members.

In Venice, the group visited the famous Orsoni mosaic factory, which produces high-end mosaics for individuals and organizations world-wide. They also spent an afternoon at Ca’ Foscari University with Dr. Laura Cortellazzo of the Competency Center, who discussed competency development and reviewed the results of the personalized 360-degree feedback assessment each had completed before coming to Italy.

“The balance of elements, from business to art, science to relationships, history to modern-day living created a holistic experience that supported learning every step of the journey,” said EMOD student Erin Garland. “I have struggled to articulate the wonder, amazement, emotion and impact this trip had and continues to have on me. What I do know is that I was rewarded beyond measure during this trip, meeting each of my learning goals in some way, and gaining more than I anticipated through each leg of our journey.”

“To my cohort, I cannot begin to express how great this experience was because of them,” said student Robert Howard. “The close connection this cohort has developed created a space where we felt comfortable exploring ourselves in this new culture and context. I look forward to continuing to unpack this experience with them.”

The EMOD program at BGSU was founded more than 40 years ago as one of the first master’s degree programs of its kind and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of today’s workforce.