Virtual Academy Spotlight Hochschule München: Leadership project welcomes guest speakers from both sides of the Atlantic
As part of the UAS7 Virtual Academy pilot phase Dominik Hammer of Hochschule München University of Applied Sciences (HM) and Martha Asselin of the University at Albany (UAlbany) are co-teaching a virtual course on interdisciplinary leadership with a focus on decision-making processes in crisis situations. On April 7, the transatlantic class was joined by high-ranking experts of both institutions who shared valuable insights into their own leadership experience in crisis situations.
Martha Asselin and Dominik Hammer were first introduced to one another virtually in late summer 2020. Since both lecturers are active in the field of International Management and Leadership the idea of co-teaching a virtual transatlantic class was floated. Both agreed that this opportunity would provide their students with a unique intercultural learning experience at a time when physical exchange is impossible. Over the course of the following months, they co-designed a dedicated COIL (Collaborative International Online Learning) project for their students. The COIL collaboration is embedded in their existing classes at HM and UAlbany and runs from March 24 to May 5 - a time period that works for both institutions in spite of the differing semester dates in Germany and the United States. The class now meets live online for 90 minutes each week. Students will work on seven different leadership assignments in mixed teams and present their results in two final presentation sessions at the end of the project.
“A unique and exciting opportunity starts today”
On April 7, the class was honored to welcome high-ranking officials from both universities, who shared their own expertise in leadership and decision-making processes in crisis situations: Havidan Rodriguez, President of UAlbany, Gilbert Valverde, Dean and Vice Provost of the Center for International Education and Global Strategy (CIEGS) at UAlbany, Sonja Munz, Vice President for Research and International Affairs at HM and Michael Christakis, Vice President for Student Affairs at UAlbany, engaged in a lively discussion with the 30-plus students in the class.
At the beginning of this special lesson, Martha introduced the guests and underlined that this is the start of “a unique and exciting opportunity” for everyone involved. After some introductory words from the experts, the students got the chance to ask individual questions in preparation for their assignments, where they will have to analyze decision-making processes in real crisis situations.
Havidan Rodriguez, who has over 30 years’ experience researching the socio-economic impact of disasters, was happy to answer the students’ questions on the different decision-making steps and on how to deal with mistakes in detail.
Havidan and his colleague Michael Christakis agreed that efficient team-building is key to making a good decision. But what if the team doesn’t reach a consensus, a student asked. From her experience dealing with the Covid-19 crisis on the university presidency level Sonja Munz knows: “If you can’t come to a conclusion as a team, ultimately, the leader will have to take a decision.”
In the end, everyone agreed that structure, processes and communication as well as constantly reassessing decisions are key in crisis situations. With these new learnings, the mixed student teams headed into breakout sessions to start working on their assignments.
To conclude Rodriguez pointed out that projects like this are what higher education should be all about. Sonja Munz agreed: “This is the future and you are the pioneers of this digital collaboration format”.
The UAS7 Virtual Academy pilot phase is funded by DAAD and BMBF.