Marie-Line Germain, Western Carolina University associate professor of human resources and leadership, is spending two weeks in Ghana engaging in research that is aimed at understanding corporate leadership behaviors in that country and the rest of Africa.
Germain traveled to Ghana on Monday and Tuesday (Sept. 18-19) through the sponsorship of the Fulbright Specialist Program, which is considered to be a short-term complement to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. The Specialist Program sends U.S. faculty and professionals to overseas institutions to serve as expert consultants for a period of two to six weeks. She will be collaborating on her research project with three faculty members from Central University, located near Accra, Ghana. She said officials at that institution want her to help their faculty boost research publication volume and reach.
“Among other goals, through this Fulbright opportunity, I wish to improve my understanding of leadership theories and practices in the West African context,” said Germain, a member of the WCU faculty since 2010. “Specifically, I am hopeful that my interactions with administrators, faculty members and some students at Central University will help me gain in-depth knowledge about some West African leader-follower dynamics, mental health topics in the workplace, and business culture in general.”
Germain said her knowledge of global leadership is typical of most U.S. academics in that she is well-informed about leadership in Europe, Latin America, Asia and other areas, but not in Africa. “Few of us have conducted leadership research in Africa. Because it is not often researched, it is also not well understood,” she said.
Germain said her first trip to Africa, in 2016, was enlightening, both personally and academically. “Among the many lessons I learned, one was that Ghana and other African countries and the U.S. are deemed to become increasingly important business partners,” she said. “A better understanding of each country’s strengths and challenges may help solve some regional and global business problems.”
Germain has extensive experience living, working and presenting research in foreign countries. As a student, she studied in Scotland through a European exchange program, and her research and other activities during her 17 years as a university faculty member have taken her back to Scotland and to Canada, England, Australia, Brazil, France, India, Japan, Peru, Spain, South Korea and The Netherlands.
“While living, working, volunteering and traveling through some of the richest and poorest countries in the world, I’ve learned that despite our cultural differences, we tend to have similar motivations, experience similar emotions and aim for similar ideals,” she said.
Germain will be returning to Ghana in 2018 and 2019 to follow up on her study and deliver lectures on human resources, leadership and research methods. During her current trip, she also is scheduled to give several public speeches on current and future trends of U.S. leadership, human resources research and research methodology.
Three other WCU faculty members are participating in the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Paul Worley, associate professor of English, is currently in the Mexican state of Chiapas conducting research aimed at helping speakers of the indigenous language Tsotsil Maya learn English and, in turn, teach English to others in that linguistic group. He plans to return to WCU next May. Mimi Fenton, professor of English, and Turner Goins, the university’s Ambassador Jeanette Hyde Distinguished Professor of Gerontological Social Work, will be leaving on their scholarly trips early in 2018. Fenton’s teaching and research is taking her to Budapest, Hungary, from January through June, while Goins will be traveling to New Zealand to work on a research project from February through November.