A team of students from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the Athens University of Economics and Business recently completed a joint project whose results have helped a Greek startup improve its performance.
The project, done virtually, saw 44 students from the schools create a case study for the technology company e-satisfaction whose CEO said he was impressed by their performance.
“I was personally impressed by how quickly they overcame the time difference and the challenges of remote collaboration and how they managed in such a short time to work as a team, to understand our challenges and to make suggestions,” e-satisfaction CEO Vangelis Kotsonis said. “That gave us real value for our next steps.”
e-satisfaction.com is an Athens-based company offering a digital platform that makes it easier for retailers to receive and respond to consumer feedback. More than 300 clients, many of which are online retailers, use the company’s services.
Kennedy Day, a junior marketing major at Indiana University, called the experience of working with Greek students “exciting” and “rewarding.”
“Learning about a different culture through a case taught me valuable lessons on how to communicate effectively with time barriers, differing work ethic strategies, and differing backgrounds,” Day said.
Nolan Buck, a junior studying marketing and professional sales, said he overcame initial concerns about being able to work remotely with his Greek colleagues.
“It’s one thing to learn about the business culture of a country, but actually working with the people we learned about is something completely different,” Buck said. “We had spent so much of class discussing social norms and cues that must be followed in a business setting. By the time the project began, I was more concerned with getting to know my Greek teammates than I was with the actual case.”
In May, the Kelley School and its Athens counterpart signed a memorandum of intent as a first step toward long-term collaborations including education, academic programs and research.
The transatlantic collaboration began with Tatiana Kolovou, a senior lecturer of business communication at the Kelley School and a Greek native.
In the past decade, Kolovou has taken more than 300 students to Greece as part of immersion courses about the country, its economy and culture. Participating students visit companies, meet with business professionals and do consulting projects for Greek companies.
“Our students learned how to work together effectively between different time zones, different ways of thinking and business models,” Kolovou said. “As an academic, I am very pleased to have contributed to the creation of a learning framework that simulates the reality of the business world. As a Greek, I am proud that our students contributed ideas and suggestions to the strategic dialogue of e-satisfaction — a very innovative Greek start-up led by an impressive management team.”
In 2020, the Greek Ministry of Tourism honored Kolovou for her efforts with one of the annual Greek Tourism Awards. In 2019, a major Greek publication wrote a profile on Kolovou which referred to her in the headline as “the Greek professor in the U.S. who teaches her students to love our country.”
Indiana University’s study abroad courses were cancelled this year and last due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Kelley School has continued to pursue immersive, international experiences for students.
“This agreement is another example of how the Kelley School provides students with international opportunities that go far beyond cultural exchange to providing them with experience dealing with critical business issues,” said Ash Soni, the Kelley School’s executive associate dean for academic programs.
“While many understand the Greek economy to be dependent on tourism, it also is increasingly becoming more entrepreneurial in nature, with companies like the one our students worked with doing innovative things,” Soni said.
Vassilis Papadakis, vice rector of international cooperation and growth at Athens University of Economics and Business and director of its executive master’s program, said he hopes to host University of Indiana students and faculty in 2022.
“We hope that this is the beginning of a long-term mutually beneficial cooperation, which we aspire to extend to joint research, teaching, exchange of students and teachers in postgraduate programs and other academic activities,” he Papadakis said.
Day and Buck said their time spent working on the project whet their appetite for international study experiences.
“My group worked very well together, and we were able to make meaningful friendships,” Day said. “We plan to continue to keep in touch. If the time ever comes that I am able to visit Greece, I would love to meet up with them.”
“Study abroad is something I have always wanted to do, so this experience confirmed my belief more than anything else,” Buck said. “It’s hard to get a good feel of a country’s culture from your own bedroom, so I still plan to study abroad and this experience has made me more excited than ever.”
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