Following visit to Russia, URI business professors issue warning

Following visit to Russia, URI business professors issue warning: Pay attention to fiscal, political crises in that giant land KINGSTON, R.I.– October 6, 1998 — Five University of Rhode Island business professors have a warning for Americans obsessed with the shenanigans of President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky: You better start paying attention to the crises in Russia. “You have to keep an eye on Russia because it is three times bigger than the United States,” said URI Marketing Professor Nikhilesh Dholakia. “It has 11 time zones, nuclear weapons and shaky borders.” Add a currency that is worthless, a political system in disarray, a powerful Russian Mafia, and you have all the elements that could threaten any progress made there to establish democracy and a market based economy. Dholakia said a key factor in the Russian economy is the Russian mob. “Organized crime controls retail,” added Linda Randall, URI assistant professor of management and associate director of URI’s Institute of International Business. “Hotel managers know how much they have to provide for the mob cut. Most Russians keep three sets of books: the books for the mob, the ones for the tax collector and the real books.” With such a climate, imagine trying to teach Russian professors and managers about a market based-curriculum. That’s just what Dholakia, Randall and their three URI colleagues were doing in late August when they visited Novgorod State University. Also making the trip to the Novgorod region of Russia were: Clay Sink, professor of management; George Delodzia, professor of management and Alejandro Hazera, associate professor of accounting. Randall and Chai Kim, who together run the Institute for International Business, won a two-year $150,000 federal grant to help Novgorod State University develop new a business curriculum. In addition, URI’s Nicolai Petro, associate professor of political science, won a three-year federal grant to help Novgorod officials develop an ethics curriculum that focuses on issues in public service and politics. In fact, two Russian scholars are on the Kingston Campus now working with URI’s Philosophy Department. Kim and Randall visited Russia in March to begin work on the business curriculum, and then Randall and her team returned in August to begin implementing the program. The URI professors were met warmly by their Russian counterparts. They were shown a new Novgorod State brochure announcing the cooperative venture between URI and the Russian university. Photos and messages from Valery N. Zelenin, vice president for international affairs at Novgorod and URI President Robert L. Carothers are featured, along with logos of the two schools and a picture of URI students walking in front of Green Hall on the Kingston Campus. Each member of the URI business team taught every other day in settings that included both managers and students. Randall, whose expertise is Russia’s conversion from a socialist economy to a market economy, also did several spots on Russian television advertising the program. All during this, the ruble was falling dramatically, banks were closing and students were leaving school, but that didn’t deter the URI team. “We integrated the crisis into the classes for the managers and professors,” Randall said. “Professor Hazera integrated his expertise gained while visiting and studying Mexico as it devalued the Peso,” Randall said. “We tried to show them how this transition is difficult, but that they need to keep their hope up,” Delodzia said. Delodzia and the other team members said they explained that the United States has had more than 200 years to develop its system. In his discussions, Sink said he focused on motivation in the workplace. “But it’s hard to talk about motivation when you haven’t been paid in a month,” he said. Still, Sink said his audience listened to ideas about improving motivation as a way to boost production. “We don’t have all the answers,” Sink said. “We just have some approaches and they can pick and choose.” Delodzia said the URI professors used the opening of the U.S. west and the Civil War as examples of threats to the U.S. system. They also visited with the Russians in social settings, and even in the saunas to get to know them in a less formal way. “When people like you, they believe you,” Delodzia said. “The Russians are very bright. The interaction was tremendous.”” “They were changing their thinking to consider such ideas as teamwork even as we were there,” Dholakia said. Randall said the team had success on an individual level, but now she wants to see how the URI assistance can lead to more institutional change. More faculty trips are planned. “I have been following this crisis since we returned,” Delodzia said. “I miss our friends. They are lovely people.” Note to Editors: Dr. Linda Randall and the other URI faculty members are available for interviews on the Russian economic crisis. Please call Dave Lavallee at 401-874-2116 to make arrangements. XXX For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116