Partnering for Purpose: Cross-Cultural Model to Encourage Participation, Exploration, Appreciation, Reflection, and Learning in Undergraduate Education and Beyond

Partnering for Purpose: Cross-Cultural Model to Encourage Participation, Exploration, Appreciation, Reflection, and Learning in Undergraduate Education and Beyond

Kirti S. Celly (California State University, USA) and Charles E. Thomas (California State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8376-1.ch006


The purpose of this chapter is to share with a wide range of organizational professionals three methods we find useful for educating a diverse undergraduate student body. Using metaphors from business, participants in two undergraduate classes were invited to co-create value by positioning their work in the context of their career goals. Following a description of our purposeful design for participation, exploration, appreciation, reflection and learning (PEARL), we arrive at the fertile delta that nurtures learning and grows a crop of confident, competent, culturally sensitive, and ethical participants with a refined understanding of success. We use narrative inquiry of participants' writing to suggest that PEARL may be useful in arenas beyond the undergraduate business classroom as it is beneficial in the development of ethical, managerial, and leadership values.
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Masaru Ibuka and the company he founded, Sony, have made enormous contributions to human well-being with their innovative products. This well-being and Sony’s products are results of Ibuka-san’s firm persuasion in a higher purpose: “To establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society, and work to their heart’s content” (Czikszentmihalyi, 2003, p. 70). Ibuka-san framed his responsibility as creating the conditions for maximizing the human potential of employees through their work and for the intrinsic purpose of promoting their personal growth and dignity; not just to create products for sale.

Like Sony, the best organizations sprout from execution on a well-developed purpose. Masaru Ibuka didn’t start with a product, but rather an idea to develop an environment that was conducive to innovation. Execution of that vision led to the development of products that captivate the mind and imaginations of consumers around the world including professors in institutions of higher learning. The purpose of college instructors is to disseminate knowledge to their students, and by extension, to society in general. This chapter chronicles our exploration, development and refinement of the means utilized to achieve that purpose with our student population. What started as development of an interdisciplinary academic assignment led to the analysis of the common strategies and methods that resonate with our students. This examination of our individual and collective experiences has led us to closely examine and refine the purpose of our time in the classroom in ways that are distinguishable from our own undergraduate educational experiences.

Within Western Civilization the “ivory tower” of academia has served as the gatekeeper and primary distributor of academic scholarship (Bok, 1982). Academic institutions historically reference the size of their library collections as a point of distinction, thereby highlighting the value proposition to scholars (Bok, 1982). As a consequence, the best and brightest scholars were typically concentrated at the universities with the greatest available resources (Bok, 1982). The result was the centralization of academic scholarship, which could be disseminated to the rest of society (Bok, 1982).

The authors attended esteemed, top-tier research institutions that emphasized a top-down educational approach. This is not to say our undergraduate education sojourn was devoid of discussion; rather, graduate student assistants generally facilitated these exchanges. Access to meaningful discussions with the instructor did not occur until graduate school, and when they did, they focused the new developments of the discipline, and rarely forayed into the presumed knowledge proffered in undergraduate courses.

As instructors, we face challenges that were not present in our respective undergraduate tenures. The first of which is technological. We teach college in an age where “google,” “wiki,” “Facebook,” “twitter,” and “What’s App” have become common parlance and constant companions. Through the Internet, information is accessible instantly through a point and click, or a few taps on the screen of a smartphone. In short, knowledge is more accessible today than ever before. Students today need not travel to the library collections of the top institutions to find cutting-edge scholarship, as it is routinely available on the Internet. Today, students can take classes and obtain college degrees without ever leaving their homes. This represents a shift in the role of undergraduate institutions serving as the sole repositories and curators of knowledge and a shift in faculty emphasis to how we teach is what we teach (Barnes, Christensen & Hansen, 1994). Reflectively, we pose the question: what is the role of the formal educator and how is their background, experience, and pedagogical approach likely to make a difference above and beyond the information available freely in the public domain?

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