Meet Fulbright Scholar - Professor Olga Shabalina
Professor Shabalina took a group of marketing students to meet with executives from The Hershey Company.
Read more about their trip.
Professor Olga Shabalina is the Mount's first Fulbright Scholar and brings a wealth of international business experience to the Richard J. Bolte Sr. School of Business. She is visiting from South Ural State University in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Why did you want to come to Mount St. Mary's University?
It’s a long story! My first contact with the Mount took place in 2009 when Sandra Sjoberg (business, accounting and economics lecturer) came to Chelyabinsk, Russia with a group of students. I helped organize cultural events for the students and it turned out Sandra and I had professional interests in common and we both teach marketing. The following year we launched a joint project for students from Mount St. Mary’s and South Ural State University. It was an international marketing class, with parallel lecturing across oceans and joint teams of Russian and American students doing case studies together and reporting results via video conferencing. The logical continuation of our cooperation was through the Fulbright program and allowed me to come to the Mount this semester and teach international marketing to US students.
Have you ever lived in the United States before? What things do you find different/interesting about being here?
It is my sixth trip to the USA. The previous times lasted about two weeks each. Almost everything is different here. The tempo of life is different. Americans seem to be on the go all the time, you always rush, rush. Even when you jog in the park, you challenge yourself to run faster or burn more calories. Multitasking goes hand in hand with this tempo of life. Another thing is the use of technology. Americans are very interactive, and it is wearing off on me! The first thing I do in the morning is check emails on my iPhone, events on my calendar and the weather. I try to tweet the most interesting things that take place in my class. I use Instagram and share photos with my groups and friends. My life dramatically changed here. In Russia life is more measured. You have more time for rest and reflection.
What do you like most about teaching marketing and international marketing?
It allows discussions on different cultures and specifics of marketing in these countries. And the process is really engaging. For instance, we are doing a case study on the Hershey Corporation launching some new products in the Russian market. To be successful in Russian, American students need to know consumption habits of Russian people, and they are really different. In Russia, chocolate is a staple — residents buy and eat it almost every day. They do not have guilt for eating chocolate, and often use it as a gift and something to share with friends.
International marketing also makes traveling not just a hobby, but something you later share with students in class. And traveling is something I really enjoy. It broadens my mental and place boundaries and is exciting!
Another opportunity is experiencing multicultural environments. You can’t teach international marketing successfully using just good textbooks. The best thing is to bring culture into your classroom. And that’s what we are doing here in the Bolte School. We have American students with different cultural backgrounds, taught by a Russian professor and Russian students serving as consultants for the Russian chocolate market. I hope my students appreciate this.
How do you draw from your experiences in Russia in your classes?
Again, we are doing a case study devoted to Hershey marketing activities in Russia. Students are developing a promotional campaign to fit that market. So I give students Russian, non-western perspective and feedback with case assignments. Russian students perform as independent experts and help a lot. Besides, I often compare specifics of marketing in a developed country like the United States with a developing country, like Russia. It makes learning very illustrative. We also learn Russian words that have a unique meaning for this country, it also helps to understand culture better.
Why do you think a connection between the Mount and South Ural State University is beneficial?
It helps understand a different culture better and be successful in this culture. It has a great impact on students — they make new friends and get unbelievable experiences that you don’t get being a tourist. The connection like this helps break stereotypes, which are often harmful for establishing good relationships between peoples and countries. At the beginning of my class in September, my students perceived Russians as tough people who never smile. They also described a Russian woman, who organized a guided tour for us in a Russian cultural center in Washington, D.C., as intimidating. Their perception of Russian citizens is also changing with time. They understand that Russians may look tough sometimes, but they are friendly, warm, and supportive.
Anything else you would like to share?
I describe my life at the Mount and in America in general as a permanent state of excitement! I am overwhelmingly thankful to my friend and colleague, Professor Sjoberg, the faculty in the Bolte School, my students and the people I’ve met. I am really privileged to teach marketing and develop professionally in the country which gave birth to marketing, branding, and advertising!