Alumni / June 29, 2020

How Cultural Curiosity and Relationship Building Adds Value to Research

Erika Hall ’07, assistant professor of organization and management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, studied finance at Maryland Smith while maintaining an interest in entrepreneurship. The path to her professional journey and the development of global mindset competencies began with an influential summer research assistantship with former Smith professor Ian Williamson. She witnessed the global nature of his work as his research took him to conferences and presentations across the world. Hall explains, “I just kept thinking, this is such an awesome job! You get to do the research you absolutely love to do, and you get to travel the world and present it. Sign me up!”

After her undergraduate studies at Smith, Hall spent two years as a research associate at Harvard Business School, where she engaged in globally tinted research and other eye-opening cultural experiences, including co-authoring an article on Indian fashion. After these two years, Hall enrolled in Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management’s doctoral program. During her time at Kellogg, Hall took a number of psychology-based courses on race, gender, and class orientation. She earned her PhD in 2014 and transitioned into her current faculty position at Emory University, where she has been for the past six years.

Hall’s position incorporates a number of the global mindset competencies, but tolerance of ambiguity and a passion for diversity are particularly noticeable skills necessary in her everyday work. Hall appreciates working in tenure-track academia because of the high level of independence and the ability to pursue her own research. However, there can be a high level of ambiguity present in academia that requires an equally high level of tolerance. As Hall notes, “You have beauty in autonomy, but at the same time, you don’t have a clear measurement of how you are supposed to be performing. If you can navigate that ambiguity and get through it, then you can be successful in your career.”

Passion for diversity is most apparent in Hall’s work with students in the negotiation courses she teaches. The approximately 200 students enrolled in her courses each year come from all over the world and offer a breadth of different cultural backgrounds and mindsets. Although navigating differing assumptions and viewpoints in a friendly and helpful classroom environment can be challenging, she utilizes the diversity of the student body to create learning moments throughout her courses. She explains, “Some of my students will talk about their mothers bartering in markets, and how they learned about aggressiveness in negotiations by watching their own mothers’ bartering methods. I use this in context when we talk about gender and negotiation. In many western contexts, aggressiveness is stereotypically masculine and so women can have a barrier in negotiations. My students who grew up watching their mothers bartering explain that they do not associate aggressiveness in negotiations as a stereotypically masculine trait because they had always witnessed it with the women in their lives.”

Another area in which Hall’s position incorporates global mindset competencies is the international presentation of her work. She finds cultural curiosity and the relationship-building it enables quite valuable to her research. Hall mentions, “When I go to another country that doesn’t deal with the same type of gender or race issues that we do, it’s eye-opening both to explain the mechanics of our issues to researchers of other countries and to get their take on my own research. It’s interesting to hear their angle on their own issues, and although they might be different than ours, all of the issues around the world boil down to a power structure.”

Hall advises current Maryland Smith students to explore outside of their comfort zones and be willing to learn. She participated in a winter-term study abroad program to Argentina during her undergraduate studies but advises that global experience can come from both international and domestic experiences. “Don’t be afraid to go out and get that global experience, whether it is venturing out to different countries or even different cultures within the U.S. Being able to put yourself out there and feel a little vulnerable can be tough, but it’s an asset in trying to push forward and learn about other cultures.”

By Julia Barr, Center for Global Business

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.

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