IU East students join international teams to create solutions for business challenges

Despite different cultures and time zones, we were all able to work perfectly in sync and positively every step of the way.”  — Adrian Calderon, IU East

That reflection is about the X-Culture Global Collaboration Project that annually includes a dozen or more students from Indiana University East.

Calderon was one of those participants for two months during the fall semester.

group of students in the classroom holding certificates

IU East students in the International Business Environment class during the fall 2020 semester participated in the X-Culture Global Collaboration Project. Through the program, students put to practice theoretical knowledge for real-life business scenarios, and they get to know and learn with people from around the world.

But, first, a little about the X-Culture Project: Think cohorts of students who must work virtually to solve a business challenge, a real one faced by a real company around the world.

Each IU East student was randomly connected with five to seven others to form a team of international students. Their first mission was to figure out ways to meet virtually and when.

IU East has taken part in the project for several years under the leadership of Arkadiusz Mironko, assistant professor of management. “Depending on the semester, between 12 to 20 take part,” he said. “The entire International Business Environment course participates.”

Every participant from IU East has successfully completed the course, he notes.

Both undergraduates and graduates (master’s or MBAs) can take part, but are paired with their peers, Mironko said.

The teams choose from among five to seven challenges in which they are expected to present a plan on how businesses can find new markets or attractions.

“One of the first team tasks is to select the challenge they want to work on,” Mironko said.

The project also serves as a worldwide competition in which IU East students have finished well through the years, he said. Winning teams receive a $1,000 cash prize and the possibilities of earning after-market commissions.

X-Culture participants have tackled projects in recent years for a range of companies, including one that makes educational toys in Lithuania and one that produces chocolates in Colombia.

Other groups worked to help develop a business expansion for a U.S. company into the African nations of Egypt, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

“X-Culture is designed to be an exercise, not a test,” notes promotional material found online. “This is how you learn through experience, not how we test your knowledge. This means that our primary concern is your participation and effort.”

Large numbers of past participants stay in touch, something that is encouraged by X-Culture — a partnership of business professors from around the world.

The program boasts that about 6,000 students from more than 70 countries participate every semester.

Mironko said IU East students meet their teammates via email at first and decide how and when to communicate. The participants in Ashton Werling’s group communicated on Facebook’s WhatsApp Messenger and also met for video conferences on Zoom at 4 p.m. Thursdays and 6 a.m. Sundays.

“X-Culture was a very good experience for me overall,” says Werling of Richmond. “I feel like I got a quick look at what it is like to work for a multinational corporation. One thing that slightly surprised me was how helpful and hardworking all of my teammates were.”

Fellow IU East student Kaitlyn Howe of Rushville said, “My experience with X-Culture was all in all a good one.”

And Calderon from Richmond, adds: “The X-Culture Program was not only memorable, but as practical as it was enjoyable.”

Werling, Howe and Calderon are all majoring in business administration at IU East.

The program turned out positively for the three, but it wasn’t always easy. “At first, it was very difficult to find a time and day to meet with everyone. But, this didn’t stop us from trying,” Howe said. “Even though we had people from all over and all different types of time zones, it made it a good challenge. This has taught me a lot with life in general. Patience is key.”

Calderon agrees about the challenges in getting everyone together: “We were able to compromise and work together. We continued to surprise each other with our efforts and ideas, and ended up being a great team of international students. I enjoyed this program very much, and would not mind doing it again if given the opportunity.”

For more comments from the students, see the following:

Kaitlyn Howe: “I like to generally work ahead on things and with not being able to do this a whole lot without others’ insight on what we were doing on each section, it helped me to understand that some days you may have to wake up early or stay up later to get what needs done. I really enjoyed the project and learning about the company we did as well.”

Adrian Calderon: “Prior to starting it and meeting my teammates, my main feelings were a mix of intimidation and uncertainty, given there were so many parts to it that I never had experience in before as well as a whole team of global students that I did not know whatsoever. … After our first meeting and delegation of roles and assignments for each section of the case, all of those previous worries subsided and the true meaning of X-Culture took effect.”

Ashton Werling: “I am usually not a huge fan of group projects because we all know those people who don’t pull their weights in projects or just simply do not do anything at all. With us being on a seven-person team and everyone living in different parts of the world, I thought for sure that there would be slackers. However, all of my teammates were very helpful and friendly and everyone did their part with no confrontation at all. … for the most part. our team handled time-zone differences pretty well and we were able to communicate, coordinate, and work well together.”