Beena Khurana, director of MBA programs, accompanied President Jeffrey Armstrong in January to promote Cal Poly and Orfalea College of Business Graduate Programs to Indian Universities and students. They met with the director and faculty of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and the executive director and staff of the United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF) Delhi. Both directors were highly impressed with what Cal Poly has to offer. Associate Deans Sanjiv Jaggia and Kevin Lertwachara traveled to Delhi in March to follow up on the links forged by the president.
Khurana shares her perspective on traveling with President Armstrong and how the two experienced Indian culture together:
It’s not everyday one gets to travel with a relative stranger who is a university president.
In my mind, public figures tend to have IKEA personalities – flat, and largely two-dimensional. So when the opportunity to travel with President Armstrong to promote Cal Poly to Indian Universities and students arose, I wasn’t quite sure what the flat-pack would reveal.
From the first moment it was clear that President Armstrong is not an on-the-sidelines traveller. Upon checking into the hotel he promptly went and got a haircut and discovered one of the greatest joys of India. Haircuts you say? Yes haircuts. Why you ask? Well because they are accompanied with a head massage, ‘champi’. As he showed me his newly hand-trimmed hair, I couldn’t resist telling him that the English word for shampoo is actually derived from the Hindi word ‘champoo’ which describes the process of pressing and kneading the head in order to soothe and relieve stress.
At our first meal together he completely trusted me with selecting what we would eat. Upon ascertaining his constraints, I ordered gosht (lamb), whole moong dal (lentils, slow cooked and rustic) alloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower) along with an assortment of roti (bread). He admired the ‘rumali’ roti; its thinness is legendary and its name literally means ‘handkerchief’. He ate heartily all the while enquiring about the flavors, seasoning, cooking methods and the etiquette of gift giving in India.
The man is without a doubt curious and open to experience. We finished on a signature North Indian dessert – kulfi falooda (Indian ice cream with rose flavored vermicelli). The dish arrived. The President took one look at the noodles and expressed surprise, while reaching for his spoon. He recognized the ‘push out of comfort zone’ moment but that didn’t stop him from embracing it. He ended up loving the dessert and ordering it on subsequent occasions, much to the delight of waiters. A traveller who knows and appreciates the local food is always welcome, especially so in India.
President Armstrong has a good phonological loop (aka ear). He picks up foreign words easily and quickly puts them to use. ‘Acha’ (which means: fine, good, yes, okay, alright), ‘namaste’ (hello, goodbye) and ‘shukria’ (thank you) were among the first additions. Hotel staff, doormen (there weren’t any women ushering us in and out of buildings) and drivers alike were charmed that he peppered conversations with Hindi words. My favorite outing with him was to Bangla Sahib, a gurudwara (temple) of the Sikh faith. When we visited the kitchen I introduced him to the concept of langar (kitchen, where food is prepared and served free of charge to anyone who stops by, regardless of who they are). Bangla Sahib feeds over 20,000 visitors daily. A couple of cooking stations in, and he had taken on board the essence of Sikhism – ‘seva’ (selfless service). So when the opportunity arose, he contributed by flipping rotis on a huge skillet. I now know that our President doesn’t simply talk about Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy.
And so it came to pass that I became acquainted with President Armstrong’s wellspring of cultural intelligence. Our world today is increasingly diverse. In the smorgasbord of individuals, organizations and nations that we deal with, some of us flourish more so than others. Initially such success was ascribed to a greater intelligence quotient (IQ) and then later to a combination of IQ and emotional intelligence (EQ). However there is a new kid on the block. It is an altogether different intelligence, one that underlies the ability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations – cultural intelligence (CQ). CQ represents the ability to grasp and reason correctly in situations characterized by cultural diversity. Individuals with high CQ are effective not only in facing cross-cultural challenges, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in perceiving and learning from cross-cultural opportunities.
Ethan Alexander graduated with academic excellence from Cal Poly with an Master of Business Administration degree. He previously graduated magna cum laude from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, focusing in mechanical engineering.
Alexander was attracted to Cal Poly because of the Learn by Doing culture in addition to the beauty of San Luis Obispo. His academic interests were initially inspired by his desire to help others, leading him to the medical field. During his time on campus, Alexander has participated in a number of engineering project teams, working on such projects as a carbon monoxide detector, an ankle brace, a hip implant, and a prosthetic thumb. His senior design project involved the design and build of a central stability frame to improve a standing wheel chair for patients suffering from spinal muscular atrophy.
After interning with an engineering firm, Alexander realized the importance of gaining a more complete business mindset for his future engineering career. He decided to continue at Cal Poly for his MBA. During the program, Ethan had the opportunity to work with Professor Ziemowit Bednarek on a variety of projects, primarily focusing on housing starts research.
Alexander will continue his passion of helping others through the medical device industry by starting a career with St. Jude Medical as a quality engineer.
Christy Carter is graduating with academic excellence from Cal Poly with an MBA from the Orfalea College of Business and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the College of Engineering. She earned her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Cal Poly as well. In her time on campus, she has been a part of a Coleman Fellows research program investigating student interest in innovation and entrepreneurship with Marketing area Chair Lynn Metcalf. In the College of Engineering, Carter helped teach classes and mentor students for aircraft senior design. She also served as secretary for the Graduate Students in Business Association, an ambassador for the College of Engineering, and a study session leader for math and physics courses at Cal Poly.
Additionally, Carter teamed with co-manager Michael Haworth on a large-scale project to design, create and build an Engineering Welcome Center and self-guided tours for each of the thirteen engineering majors for Cal Poly’s College of Engineering. Carter helped navigate the approval process with many campus constituents and students. “We had the idea that it would be great to facilitate self-guided tours, so we initiated a project to develop brochures that would allow anyone to get a feel for each department, whether you’re a prospective student, parent, alum, corporate sponsor, current student looking to change majors, or just curious about the college of engineering,” said Carter.
Carter created and seized opportunities to experience several engineering internships, including an internship with Nor-Cal Products Inc. as a research and development engineer, sales engineer, and supply chain engineer. During the summer of 2014 Carter began an intership at Northrop Grumman Corporation as an aerospace systems engineer and, upon completion of her degrees, will begin a full-time position as an aerospace systems architect with the company in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Cal Poly has become a family tradition in the Carter family with Christy’s younger sister Kelly now attending Cal Poly as a sophomore. Together, the two have volunteered in activities that they both enjoy, including FFA and equine therapy for special needs individuals. “I am so grateful to spend this quality time with my sister building our friendship while giving back to the San Luis Obispo County community,” said Carter.
Carter is excited to take her next step in life pursuing professional goals, exploring the world, and continuing to make family and friends a priority. She will spend the summer visiting family and taking a trip to Alaska before beginning her professional career in September. She also looks forward to returning to Cal Poly in the future to recruit Cal Poly students for jobs and be a guest speaker for classes.
“Cal Poly feels like extended family,” said Carter. “I want to ignite that same passion in other Cal Poly students to make the most of their education.”