Inquiring minds

Earl Hill: Teaching art of negotiations abroad

Earl Hill, a senior lecturer in organization and management, manages to make the most of his summers—lecturing and traveling abroad. Last July, Hill spent two weeks at the Helsinki School of Economics in Finland, leading a class on negotiations.

Q. What was your main motivation for teaching abroad?

A. I was recruited at Goizueta by a staff member from the Helsinki School of Economics. This is my fourth year teaching there, and it has been a remarkable learning experience. It gives me the opportunity to spend time in a different culture and to forge some international relationships.

Q. Do you find that there are changes to be made in the classroom to accommodate a different culture?

A. The European higher education teaching model is not quite like ours, especially on the graduate level. In the U.S., the classes are very participatory, with students and teachers interacting and engaging in dialogue. However, there is a high lecture content in Europe. When I go into the classroom there, I tell the students that they must be prepared to participate. It’s a significant percentage of their overall grade.

Q. Considering the break from the norm, are the Finnish students receptive to your teaching style?

A. It is a very comfortable transition, as English is the primary language. The students typically come from all over the world—including the U.S. Many of the students are thrilled by the input they receive in the negotiations course. The primary focus is on business negotiations, using mostly U.S. examples. But, I do use a simulation about Euro Disney as an example of a cross-cultural negotiation. I primarily use simulation (role playing), with class discussion and learning points following each simulation. The basic theory and premises apply in all arenas, including personal negotiations. With the changes in the global economy, European students are beginning to get more comfortable in attempting to negotiate a job offer, where they wouldn’t have in the past. So the students there are especially excited to get some of my input on this subject.

Q. Besides teaching here and abroad and your consulting work, is there anything else significant that you are involved in at the present?

A. I was most pleased to accept Emory’s President James Wagner’s invitation to participate in the search committee for the new Dean of Goizueta. As you know, Dean Thomas Robertson leaves us in 2005. So, we will be going over the candidates, and will recommend to President Wagner the very best we can find. I am also involved in a research project on diversity training—benchmarking companies and looking at the existing articles. Companies spend tons on it, but is it truly making a difference? I am looking at how to effectively measure its effect. The information will support my occasional diversity training interventions.

—Myra A. Thomas