Peter Ekman, Ph.D., has returned to the Robins School to teach this year.  Ekman, who is from Mälardalen University in Sweden, first visited the Business School in the fall of 2006 as a result of coordinated efforts by Thomas Cosse, Associate Dean for International Programs, and the University’s Office of International Education.

“On his initial visit in 2006, Peter was primarily an observer.  His main objective was to learn how business education was delivered in the context of a private liberal arts university,” said Steve Thomspon, Ph.D., who is working on a research project with Ekman and Jonathan Whitaker, Ph.D.

Prior to his initial visit, Ekman was selected for a scholarship to observe the University.  “I came on a STINT scholarship called ‘Excellence in Teaching’ to learn about the American liberal arts tradition during the fall semester 2006. STINT sends nine to 12 faculty abroad each year, and the scholarships are applied for in competition,” he said.  [STINT is a Swedish Acronym for (translated) the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education].” Whitaker and Thompson later applied and were chosen for a grant that allowed them to then visit Ekman in Sweden. 

During their 2008 visit to Sweden, the team was able to lay the groundwork for their current research project entitled “Coordinating the Global Firm: How do Multinational Corporations (MNCs) utilize IT to gain competitive advantage on a global scale.”  The project intends to address how MNCs use IT to coordinate their global operations and how IT can aid this process.  The team also plans to address through their research how the implementation and use of IT might differ based on business strategy and organizational structure. Ultimately, the team’s research efforts will be compiled into three papers slated to be published later on this year.

In addition to the time Ekman is devoting to this collaborative research project, he is also teaching Essentials of IT this semester and will be teaching Principles of Marketing in the spring.

Cosse, Thompson and Whitaker all agree that Ekman brings a perspective to the Robins School that students will be able to benefit from.  “He brings an international dimension to [the Robins School]. Peter himself is a very positive force and he’s here from another country, teaching our undergrads, which is especially attractive to us,” Cosse said.

For example, Ekman has implemented a contest in his course to keep students engaged and incorporate his Swedish background. Ekman posts a Swedish question- sometimes about a popular Swedish song or band, or maybe even a Swedish holiday- and students have to research that question.

This contest allows the class to reflect upon their own search habits and determine if they can rely on their search tools, according to Ekman.  Consequently, Ekman creates a classroom where students are engaging with him instead of exclusively lecturing to students each week. “I see my classroom as a place for mutual learning. We’re all in the classroom together, and I try to encourage that,” Ekman said.

Ekman enjoys the flexibility that he has as a visiting lecturer and is enjoying switching roles and teaching in the Robins School.  “Overall it’s really a great and unique university. I like the setting and [classrooms] that have a small number of students,” he said.