Indiana State University Newsroom



Business professor crafting global learning opportunities for students

May 21, 2013

For a group of Indiana State University students, traveling to Brazil this summer to learn about social entrepreneurship is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For the business professor organizing the trip, it's one of many projects to connect her students with the world outside of the classroom.

Aruna Chandra, professor of management in the Scott College of Business, with support from the Center for Community Engagement has established the Indiana Global Business Advisors, or IGloBA, at the university. In her classes, Chandra partners teams of students with companies and organizations from a variety of places to work on projects that will benefit the organization while helping students learn more about the course curriculum.

"We need to give more exposure to our students to national and international businesses," Chandra said in her decision to develop IGloBA. "I feel that is a need, and that's the need that IGloBA seems to fit."

Chandra typically introduces students to the course concepts, including business theories and other lessons, in the first weeks of the semester before informing students of the companies that have expressed interest in working with them. The students then choose the project to work on, or they can introduce their own to work on through the semester.

"Taking theory and applying it to an actual situation is an analytical process, and it's challenging and difficult," Chandra said. "I want them to make this transition of taking theory and applying it to practice rigorously. That's part of the exercise for them, and they work in groups. They seem to be enjoying themselves and doing a good job."

Chandra's students have worked on an array of projects. In the spring, group projects ranged from a communications initiative with a Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology team to collaboration with Bloomington, Ind.-based Upland Brewery, which revived Terre Haute classic beer Champagne Velvet.

The brewery group had the chance to meet and work closely with several company employees, and they even toured the facility and learned more about the industry.

"They already have one foot in the door, so to speak, and they are really excited about it," Chandra said. "That's why I let them choose their business."

The business professor has compiled a database of organizations she has worked with either through previous class projects or her research, which focuses in on innovation environments in different countries around the world. She has traveled internationally to do comparative analysis on such topics as microfinance and business incubation in different parts of the world and through support of grants from the Lilly Foundation and the Fulbright Program, among others. Some companies have specific projects or needs that can be addressed; other times, Chandra encourages the students to do a strategic analysis of the organization.

Chandra tries to avoid long lectures in her classes. To teach the business theory embedded in the curriculum, she speaks briefly then assigns students to give longer presentations that incorporate theory with current events. During the presentations, she asks the presenters about the topics they are explaining, while adding her own commentary to create a discussion-based shared learning environment.

"It's more about learning how to learn. It's programming people to learn," Chandra said. "I feel this approach will engage the mind in a different way, and program them to think more critically and to ask more questions."

The IGloBA initiative is the latest way that Indiana State helps to prepare students for their professional career, said Brien Smith, dean of the Scott College of Business.

"The hands-on approach in the classroom has multiple benefits for everyone involved," Smith said. "Companies have future leaders applying innovative approaches to resolving pressing needs, while students are able to work more closely with professionals in industries that are of interest to them. They are able to gain valuable experience while gaining insight into potential career possibilities."

The projects and presentations not only make classes more active for the students, but it also makes it more interesting for Chandra to teach.

"Some people say that students are passive and this and that," Chandra said. "I don't buy that. I think we just need to challenge them in a different way."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Bangalore-Conference-2012/i-JSqpPGR/0/L/Bangalore%20Conf%202012_2-L.jpg (Submitted photo) Indiana State University professor Aruna Chandra, right, at the Three Day International Conference on Social Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development in Emerging Economies in Bangalore, India. Chandra has developed the Indiana Global Business Advisors (IGloBA) initiative, which provides students with the opportunity to work with companies and organizations from around the globe, such as the conference in Bangalore, India.

Contact: Aruna Chandra, professor of management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2105 or aruna.chandrasekaran@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu