Learning leadership skills from the pros is a time-honored tradition. It’s often helpful to take a look at the path of those who’ve gone before you, particularly if you are at the beginning of your career.
Adding a new wrinkle to this custom is a recent program at Lehigh University which gathered 21 Ph.D. students – many business professionals – from a Thailand university for a visit to the Bethlehem institution. Here, they participated in a three-day program devoted to leadership topics in industrial engineering and human resources.
The program included a two-day workshop Nov. 11-12 and a tour Nov. 13, after which the students were scheduled to return home.
The Thai students, who traveled with four faculty from Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, are pursuing doctorate degrees in human resources development and heard speakers from speakers at Lehigh University who have diverse experiences in this field.
“All of them are professionals, such as executive level, and they shared their experiences with leadership and also human resources,” said Charalambos Marangos, president and senior consultant of Zephyros Inc., an entrepreneurial company in Emmaus. Marangos also is an adjunct professor at Lehigh. “My workshop and presentation utilized the Advanced Analytics Laboratory in the Enterprise Systems Center so that the participants could have hands-on experience with analytics during my presentation.”
The Enterprise Systems Center is a Complex Engineering Systems Research Center under the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Advanced Science at Lehigh, Marangos said.
“What I talked about was big data and analytics and how that could be used to improve human resources functions,” Marangos said.
An example of big data would be any information about a potential employee that comes from different sources and locations, such as college transcripts or the size of the company where someone interned, so that employers can see a pattern and make a decision.
The students appeared to enjoy hearing from the professionals who shared their stories and offered specific guidelines to follow, most of which came from their own experiences, Marangos said.
All of the students spoke English, and while some were hesitant about speaking in a foreign language, Lehigh had three translators on stand-by.
Choat Inthawongse, a doctoral degree candidate in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Lehigh, is a Ph.D. candidate from Thailand who led the group of Thai students in the program, which was coordinated by Lehigh’s Enterprise Systems Center in the College of Engineering.
“The Thai students, they are a good mix of business owners, professionals and a policeman,” Inthawongse said. “We got a good keynote speaker, the former CEO of Air Products [John McGlade], and he actually came back a second day, as well.
“Mostly we had workshops; they did brainstorming, worked on a problem and shared their insights. We created a comfortable environment for them to talk.”
Aside from big data and analytics, session topics included recommendations and case studies from starting and running a successful business and identifying, assessing and developing high-potential talent.
Inthawongse said the students appeared to enjoy the experience and that Lehigh plans to do it again. It could become a tailor-made program for Lehigh.
“Their reaction was positive; we have been preparing for this since July,” Inthawongse said.
One of the highlights was a visit to Lehigh’s Linderman Library and to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania TechVentures2 incubator on Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus. There, students toured the business incubator, knocking on a few doors and meeting some of the entrepreneurs who work there.
Inthawongse said he sees the program as having potential to draw further international attention to the university.
“It will definitely attract more attention from a global level,” he said.