SOM partners with Ukrainian School B and offers virtual workshops
It was late February when Aneil Mishra, Dean of the School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint, first logged on to UCU Business School (LvBS), a graduate and executive business school in Lviv, Ukraine. Speaking to Academic Director Nataliya Oboznenko, the duo brainstormed opportunities for collaboration. Even during this initial conversation, the specter of an escalation of hostilities with Russia loomed.
“I was simply amazed and admired by Nataliya’s courage – that she would seek to carry out long term planning when war could strike her country at any time,” Aneil recalls.
Just two days later, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Oboznenko continued his planning efforts in concert with UM-Flint, undeterred despite the extraordinary circumstances. This work culminated on April 14, when Aneil and his wife, Karen Mishra, hosted a virtual Gallup CliftonStrengths workshop for students in UCU Business School’s MSc in Innovations and Entrepreneurship program. During this session, the Mishras used their expertise to help the next generation of Ukrainian leaders gain unique personal knowledge that is valuable in both their professional and personal lives.
“The path [Aneil and Karen] teach and the quality of the Gallup test itself introduced our students to the global learning ecosystem and culture of teaching. We live in the global context in Ukraine and we deserve to be integrated into this context in all spheres of life,” explained Oboznenko.
find the strength
As a globally certified StrengthsFinder Coach, Karen has conducted workshops like these for thousands of students and executives. Participants answer a series of questions ahead of time that identify their top five strengths – ideation, empathy, communication, adaptability, and more. The workshop explores these findings in more detail and suggests practical ways to use the information.
“The whole world tells you what you’re not good at. But people deserve to have confidence in their careers, in their lives,” Karen says. “This tool helps people understand themselves and gives them a concrete way to explain the value they bring to a team.”
Although Karen is an expert, coordinating such a session during a global conflict presents unique challenges. During a planning call a few days before the event, Oboznenko had to evacuate the school for safety. Aneil explains that it was “humiliating to think that there is a war going on, but she remains focused on doing everything to help her students. We have decided to focus in the same way”.
During the session, participants were asked to identify the biggest challenge they face in their life. Unsurprisingly, the most frequent response was war. But they also identified more day-to-day challenges, such as work-life balance, career goals and time management.
Partnership in progress
Even with the StrengthsFinder event just concluded, the School of Management and UCU Business School are already exploring opportunities for collaboration. The Mishras will lead a second strengths workshop with another group of graduate students. In addition, building on the Mishra’s internationally recognized expertise in trust, talks are beginning for a future roundtable focusing on trust in times of crisis.
Also, many UCU Business School students are required to complete a field project in which they partner with and study a company. Carrying out such work is becoming more and more difficult in Ukraine. SOM is therefore exploring how UCU students can work with UM-Flint’s business faculty to meet this requirement. Potential projects for formal exchange agreements are also in their infancy.
“We are open to all types of cooperation and partnership, especially with institutions and people who believe in Ukraine,” Oboznenko said. “We would be delighted to build and launch a student exchange, joint program or research project with UM-Flint. And we are confident that this cooperation will be fruitful for both parties.”
how to help
The UCU Business School website encourages visitors to donate to Come Back Alive, an organization that supports the Ukrainian military by providing technology, training, and support to the military.