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RON THOMAS

Ron Thomas is a Lecturer in the General Management Group, College of Business Administration. He specializes in the management and social implications of the global information economy. He is a former Chair of the Information Technology Task Force at the College, and he has developed innovative initiatives in Internet-based distributed learning and collaborative groupwork. He co-authored a comprehensive information technology strategy for the University. Dr. Thomas has lectured and consulted at the senior management level to a wide range of corporations and professional organizations, and has been a visiting faculty member at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the AT&T School of Business. He has held consulting positions as a Senior Associate with Global Resources, Inc. and as a partner in The Task Group. Prior to joining the Northeastern faculty, he held clinical and research appointments at the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and his BA from Swarthmore College. He is a recipient of the Northeastern University Excellence in Teaching Award.

My project is motivated by the question, "How can undergraduate students of business be most effectively prepared for the rapidly globalizing business environment?" Most business school curricula include some forms of active, experiential learning, including case studies, simulations, field internships, or cooperative work placements. However, it is often difficult for students to integrate their academic, theoretical learning with their practical experience. "Practice-oriented education" is an approach to teaching and learning based on an active learning paradigm, that cycles through conceptualization, active experimentation, and reflective observation, so students become both skilled and reflective practitioners. I am developing a cross-cultural project, "Transnational E-Learning and Exchanges for Practice-Oriented Education [TELEPOE]", with five European schools of business with whom CBA has a student exchange program. The TELEPOE project will create a range of practice-oriented activities linking students, faculty and coop employers in the U.S. and Europe via Internet-mediated communications. The underlying intent is to create a "global mindset" in students of international business by developing four interrelated competencies: (a) intercultural sensitivity and adaptation; (b) managerial skills, especially collaboration in virtual teams; (c) global business knowledge; (d) foreign language proficiency. As students develop these competencies, they will also be encouraged to develop skills in reflecting on their own tacit cultural and professional assumptions. A significant part of the project involves systematic, sequential, developmentally-staged assessments of student progress at every phase of their undergraduate experience: preparation phase, foreign study phase, foreign cooperative work placement phase, re-entry phase, and post-graduation phase. These assessments will become part of the individual student’s learning portfolio. The TELEPOE project will also create a longitudinal follow-up study of graduates’ career paths in international business. Phase one of the project will begin in fall 2002, when CBA students participate in a four week internet-based virtual seminar with European students and faculty on the topic, "The European Union and the Globalization Debate."

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