When Bitty Balducci taught students at a Romanian university how to role-play a simple business transaction between two parties, she was surprised to discover they had never participated in a similar classroom activity before.
Used to maintaining respectful silence while their instructors spoke, it took a little time for Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu (LBUS) students to warm to the activity, but by the end of it, they were enthusiastic.
“I had students say, ‘Are all of your classes like this? That was the best thing I’ve ever seen,’” said Balducci, an assistant professor of marketing in WSU’s Carson College of Business. “It was just really eye-opening to realize US schools, especially WSU, put a ton of focus on having that classroom engagement — it’s not a given.”
Balducci’s lessons at LBUS occurred during an early 2023 study abroad trip that enabled her to share many of the active classroom engagement techniques she has developed at WSU with an international audience. Her visit strengthened WSU’s international research relationships and underscored the value engagement brings to the classroom — one of the tenants of a Carson College business education.
Transnational relationships create research collaboration opportunities
Balducci was connected to Romania through her friend and mentor Simona Stan, a Sibiu native and professor of marketing at the University of Montana where Balducci earned her MBA. It was Stan who encouraged Balducci to seek her PhD. The two are now coauthors on a forthcoming research project.
As an MBA student, Balducci had been keen on participating in a study abroad opportunity at LBUS Stan led in 2016, but it fell through. When the chance finally came to join in early 2023, Balducci says she had to tag along.
The trips were planned as separate events, but Balducci made sure her visit and Stan’s coincided, which gave her vital introductions both to faculty at LBUS and to the companies they toured.
“She used to teach at LBUS, and she knows everybody there; that’s her hometown,” Balducci said.
Site visits strengthen research potential
Site visits and tours of some large companies were another major component of Balducci’s trip. She says the opportunity to see operations of these organizations up close and unveiled is a rare treat for researchers, as proprietary company procedures, products, and data are often guarded.
If Balducci can maintain good relationships with these organizations, she says they may agree to supply data for her research — an arrangement that’s difficult to match state-side.
“Access to secondary data is the linchpin to getting published in top marketing journals for the most part,” Balducci said. “It’s really hard to get data in the US — I’ve worked with 10 companies to get data, and it takes years.”
International experience advances cultural awareness and appreciation
Balducci says travel and collaboration between business colleges, especially across international borders, can be critically important to furthering institutional goals and offering students a well-rounded college experience.
“I really value the fact that WSU makes that international experience a requirement for a Carson College bachelor’s degree,” Balducci said. “It’s important to know your way of thinking is not the only one, and to also see the value in the way other people approach the world.”
Balducci says the Romanian landscape and the people themselves are what struck her most.
During the trip, she visited neighboring towns and hiked through the Carpathian Mountains, which she describes as “jaw-dropping.” As Sibiu is situated in the historic region of Transylvania, she even visited a few castles, including Dracula’s castle. She says it was “beautiful, but a little creepy.”
“It really did feel like a second home to me,” Balducci said. “Romania was one of the most welcoming places I had ever been. The hospitality — and I mean genuine hospitality — was truly amazing.”