Professor Jonathan H. Westover, PhD shares his impressions about the MBA SBMT BSU program, its students and Belarus.

From May till August 2012 at the MBA SBMT BSU course in HR-management taught Professor of Management School of Business Woodbury (Woodbury School of Business) University of Utah (USA), Jonathan H. Westover. In an interview for our web-site professor Westover shares his impressions about teaching on the MBA SBMT BSU program and Belarus.

1. How do MBA SBMT students differ from MBA students from US universities (or Utah University)? 

I think that the MBA students in the U.S. and in Minsk are actually very similar. In my MBA HR class at SBMT, I had a great cross-section of working professionals who were highly motivated to learn and apply theory and best practices to help them succeed in their career. We had highly engaging discussions and the students were very involved in the active learning process, much as I would expect from MBA students in the U.S. I would say that my SBMT MBA students’ class preparation (coming to class already having done the reading and preparing the small case assignments) was not always what I had hoped, but overall I was very pleased with the students’ performance in the course. 

2. What are the differences between MBA SBMT BSU program and MBA in American business schools (curriculum, courses design etc.)? 

I think the biggest difference is that in the U.S. more and more MBA programs are moving more towards an integrated curriculum program design, rather than the traditional course by course siloed approach of learning content (as was the case in the SBMT MBA program). Additionally, U.S. MBA programs tend to be highly focused on engaged/applied learning. This is an aspect of the SBMT MBA program that is currently being developed, which will give the MBA students a much more rich learning environment. 



3. Your course was «HR-management.» Knowledge of the basics of HR-management is so important to the modern managers as owning economic laws. 

Your lectures could have been attended both MBA students and undergraduates. What questions on HR-management were the most popular (often) asked in your classes? 

The very most common question I got about any particular topic we were discussing in class on a given day was, “What is [it] like in America?” The second probably was, “[It] is so different in Belarus, so how can we apply that here?” The students were very anxious to learn and develop their capacity to manage and lead successfully, but they were also keenly aware of the unique socio-cultural, geo-political, and economic context in Belarus. 

4. You held seminar "Innovative methods in business education and service based learning " for MBA teachers. How can you assess the prospects for the implementation of innovative tools and techniques to the Belarusian educational system? 

I think the MBA faculty were highly responses to our teaching seminar and I see a lot of potential for using more community-engaged and service-based learning in the SMBT MBA program in the future! 

5. One of the workshops held by you at SBMT, was devoted to the problem of non-compliance of academic education to the employer’s requirements. What could you suggest to make this gap narrowed? 

Both faculty and students alike need to be keenly aware and focused on what employers need in their workers. Organizations need workers that work well in teams, are creative and innovative, have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and who have strong oral and written communication skills, just to name a few. These core competencies need to be at the forefront of what the faculty teach/how they teach. Additionally, students need to take a greater responsibility for their own learning to ensure that they are continually developing in these core skill areas. 

6. Have you learnt something new personally for yourself as a teacher while being at SBMT? 

Through my experience in teaching the MBA HR class at SBMT, I was able to learn so much about labor force dynamics in Belarus. I was exposed to much of cultural and social differences between our countries and was reminded of how valuable it is to look at difficult challenges from different perspectives and worldviews. Additionally, through my teaching and travels around Belarus, I met so many kind and generous people who were so helpful to me and my family and I will be ever grateful for the relationships I was able to develop during my four-month stay in Minsk.


7. Were there any difficulties with understanding of the course materials in English among the Belarusian students? 

Mostly I think the SBMT students did a great job understanding the content of the course. Some aspects of labor/employment law common in the U.S. and other Western countries was quite foreign to them (e.g. issues of employee discrimination), but this led to many great and enlightening discussions! In terms of language ability, I was very impressed by the English language skills of my students! 

8. What would you like to wish to MBA program and School of Business and Management of Technology? 

I had such a wonderful time during my four-month stay in Minsk and teaching in the SBMT MBA program. I know that the program will continue to grow in develop in prestige and effectiveness and I am excited for all of the future prospects for both the faculty and students! I wish everyone the best and I hope to meet you all again in the future!