Visiting professor from Austria says Fairfield students well prepared for international business careers


Image: Kurt MatzlerBusiness students at Fairfield have a "sophisticated international background" which will serve them well in careers in a globally competitive environment, according to Dr. Kurt Matzler. Dr. Matzler is a visiting adjunct professor from the University of Innsbruck who is teaching this semester in the School of Business' International Studies program.

Dr. Matzler came to this conclusion after conducting a case study on Walt Disney's problems in Europe when it opened EuroDisney in Paris. The case study dealt with the differences in the cultural and economic environments. "I have done this case in many courses in universities and business schools in Europe," he said. "I was surprised at how well Fairfield University students did on this case. Some of them knew more about the cultural and economic environment in France than many students in Europe. Fairfield seems to attract very active and demanding students and it offers many interesting and excellent programs. I feel that Fairfield University students will be very well prepared for their international careers."

As part of the exchange that brought Dr. Matzler to Fairfield, Dr. Bharat Bhalla, associate professor of finance, is on sabbatical to teach a seminar course as a visiting professor to doctoral students at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Dr. Walter Ryba, acting dean of the School of Business, said the exchange is a first for the School of Business, and planning is underway to develop more exchanges with two universities in Holland, Maastricht and Rotterdam, and another in Germany.

"The advantage of these exchanges is that our faculty have the opportunity to teach in an international environment and to further their understanding of other cultures that they talk about in their classes at Fairfield," said Dr. Ryba. "Exchanges give our students more exposure to different ways of thinking and what is important in other cultures. It's diversity and variety we are trying to emphasize because that is representative of the international business world in which our students will one day work."

Students, said Dr. Matzler, should study international business because it comprises a large and growing portion of the world's total business, and most of the largest companies in the U.S. generate more than half of their earnings from exports and foreign sales. Dr. Matzler said foreign direct investment by countries around the world, including the U.S., increased to $1,932 trillion in 1992 from $105 billion in 1967, an eighteenfold increase. He said Intel, the computer chip manufacturer, depends on exports and foreign sales for 89 percent of its sales, Exxon for 78 percent and Hewlett-Packard for 77.3 percent. "These companies need very high-skilled managers with an international background in their education and first-hand experiences in international operations," he said.

Dr. Matzler cited surveys in Forbes and Fortune magazines in which eight out of 10 CEOs said that business majors should take an introductory class in international business and seven out of 10 would more likely hire business graduates who have expertise in foreign languages and cultures as well as knowledge of the political and economic environments of foreign countries.

Although the U.S. is the largest trading nation in the world, with a 15.2 percent share of world exports, its market share in exports is declining as more countries begin trading overseas. According to Dr. Matzler, approximately 2,500 companies account for most U.S. exports and tens of thousands of U.S. companies are capable of entering export markets but are not doing so. "One of the possible reasons is that many small- and medium-sized companies lack information about foreign markets and differences in the economic, cultural, legal and competitive environment. Companies often do not have managers experienced in international business who have the necessary skills to manage foreign operations."

The best way to learn management skills, Dr. Matzler says, is to practice simulations. "Just as the pianist learned the piano by playing, so too the skills of management are learned by managing. My teaching approach is based on case studies. Doing case studies enables students to acquire skills that cannot be learned by reading or lectures. The best way to comprehend foreign cultures is to travel, study or work abroad. Fairfield University offers very interesting possibilities abroad."

Dr. Matzler earned a Ph.D. in social and economic sciences at the University of Innsbruck. He has published two books about customer satisfaction and core competencies, and is working on a third about "knowledge management in strategic alliances." He is the editor of two books about customer orientation and perspectives in strategic management. He has published in several journals, including the German edition of the Harvard Business Review, and presented papers on his studies about Total Quality Management at conferences in China and Japan.

He is teaching Transnational Corporations at Fairfield, and has been teaching courses in International Management, General Management and Total Quality Management at the University of Innsbruck since 1994. He also has taught at universities and business schools in Italy, such as the University of Cremona, the European Academy of Bolzano and at an undergraduate program at the University of Venice.

Previously, Dr. Matzler was as an exchange student at the University of New Orleans, and in 1996 a visiting scholar at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He said his assignment at Fairfield introduced him to Connecticut which he finds a "great area" for biking in his spare time.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 1, 1998