Visiting Professors of the International Summer School share their experience at Universidad de los Andes during June 4 – 14

June 27, 2019

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Ramiro Montealegre (University of Colorado Boulder), Stefan Gröschl (ESSEC Business School) and Renato Orsato (INSEAD), were among the faculty who joined the International Summer School from June 4 - 14. Our journalist interviewed them to enquire their impressions about Universidad de los Andes School of Management, students enrolled in their courses and their lives as scholars.

  • During your visit, what has surprised you about Colombia? 

Prof. Ramiro Montealegre

So I live in the US and this is my first time in Colombia. I am impressed. It’s beautiful. Everything is so green, so beautiful. Especially the food!

Prof. Renato Orsato

It has been the best. I think people here are very kind, polite and I think in general the city looks much better than I imagined. In Brazil we always get bad news about countries so, it’s much better than I thought.

Prof. Stefan Gröschl

I am super impressed. It’s a great city even if we have spent most of the time at the university, at the weekend we discovered more of the city and I have been impressed by developments you see over the years, particularly the bike riding on Sunday mornings.

  • What would you highlight from your visit to Universidad de los Andes School of Management?


Prof. Montealegre

Prof. Orsato

Prof. Gröschl

  • When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?

Prof. Montealegre 

Prof. Orsato

I had questions that I know I wouldn’t be able to answer in the work environment as an employee. So I decided to do a Master and then a PhD and started looking at things I was curious about. The problem is that once you start asking questions you never stop so I have remained academia.

Prof. Gröschl

Well, that’s something no one has asked me before, but I think there is always a decisive moment and I think mine was in my final year of high school. I was in France on a basketball court and I saw this really cool dude playing on his own. He turned out to be a professor from the university and I thought, ‘I want to be like this guy’. So first, I was a sports and French teacher at high school, but then I had back problems and couldn’t pursue my studies in sport. So after a while of following different routes, I ended up, after working in industry, with an opportunity to do a Master and to pursue an academic career.

  • What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?

Prof. Montealegre

So there are several things. I like the idea of learning. I like the flexibility of my time and the topics I choose to research. So that’s basically what motivates me the most and of course the opportunity to provide learning opportunities to students. So that combination of learning and exploring topics I am interested in, and the opportunity to be surrounded by students helping them to understand what took me a long time to understand.

Prof. Orsato

Prof. Gröschl

We all have different responsibilities, so when it comes to teaching, when you come to the end of a program and when you that students have been engaged, and when you see that you can change people’s mind… In my case, for example, it is sustainability and looking at how we are doing business differently today and I can see that you can change, not everyone’s, but some people’s minds. That’s the teaching aspect. In research, of course when you get to publish interesting papers in important journals. But I have also had moments when you just feel proud for working with and touching communities and individuals with whom I developed projects. This is not the traditional output of research but it is equally satisfying.

  • What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?

Prof. Montealegre

Right, now I am very lucky because technology is playing a beautiful role and there are a lot of changes taking place, and my area of research is exactly the area that I teach, which is digital transformation using digital technology. So, lately I have been doing a lot of work on real estate and how that is transforming, on retail and the future of shopping malls, and now I am working on healthcare and how healthcare, especially in the US, is being transformed by digital tech.

Prof. Orsato

I have been researching a lot within the automotive industry and I tend to work with innovation and sustainability so my latest work is on business platforms: how can business platforms help to move towards a more sustainable and socially responsible society. For example, how can business platforms help reduce food waste, how BP can eventually make industries more efficient, and eventually engaging people who are not within the system with the better access to education and eventually engaging in every way to make these people more part of the same group.

Prof. Gröschl

  • How does your work contribute to the society as a whole?

Prof. Montealegre

Prof. Orsato

I think by asking why we have certain practices. Sometimes we identify situations where businesses should not go beyond what they do, but then there is a clear indication that the government should step in. A good example is that carbon trading has not been so successful and, I would say, is a good business case or government case for carbon taxation. So somehow, I think this work has a strong relevance for practice and I think that’s what business schools should be doing.

Prof. Gröschl

I think in general as scholars, there is a tendency to write about business but not for business, and I think that’s the wrong direction. I like to publish in a way that is very practice oriented, that is readable by practitioners, easy to understand, and can help them to advance individually and as part of their organizations, pursuing more sustainable ways of doing business. But is a challenge because we are all somewhat closed within this format of how we do research and I would say that it is counterproductive to helping our clientele, which is comprised by people in the industry.

  • How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

Prof. Montealegre

I believe that now education is changing a lot. Before, the source of knowledge came from books or an expert, so we had to take notes and then replicate what the source of knowledge was providing. I think that if you think about it, we live in a society that is more complex; that is changing fast. So learning is more about interaction, about dialogue, about the process. It is verb; it is an action. So my philosophy is how to engage my student in a safe environment in which I present a situation, which can be solved through discussion. Especially, in management where there are no recipes but we learn through examples with which we can create a template to then use in other situations.

Prof. Orsato

I like the idea of learning by doing so I try to have as much connection between theory and practice. So I think that there is nothing more practical that a good theory and the best way to demonstrate a theory is through practice, so they are complementary. We do a lot of group work and look into real cases so for this course, we are looking at business platforms of different types and I think over time together with the students we are going to see between 70 and 100 different types of business platforms. So it gives them a good sense of reality and brings theory to their environment.

Prof. Gröschl

  • What do you learn the most from the interaction with your students?

Prof. Montealegre

I learn form them all the time. Especially in technology, I am sure that my students spend a lot more time than I do on websites and looking at technology, so I learn from them all the time, and that’s beautiful.

Prof. Orsato

Prof. Gröschl

There are multiple aspects. Their particular day to day problems, some of the barriers they face, when we look at theoretical contributions or the way we see things, and in certain situations students say, ‘this is difficult for us to implement because of this and this and this…’ So we don’t always fully understand the contexts in which some of these individuals operate because its diverse, it is different, in particular when we have international students where some people will say that the legal frameworks are different, that there are cultural differences, etc. So those are aspects that are critical. The ideas we have don’t always work, or they are challenged by students, and then together you find alternatives and this makes it fun and contributes to research. And vice versa, for example, the research I did with the female executives will then help me -here for example, on the course I am giving- to be able to say that there is this key finding we had and it was about women executives having 3 or 4 children. There’s always this notion among my female undergrad students who ask me whether, once they have a career, they have to choose between it and a family. And there is a clear message, at least on a small scale, that no they don’t. It is possible. We have seen these women being able to do it and we believe that there are ways of doing so successfully.

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