Dr. John ‘J.K.’ Osiri, associate professor of practice in management at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business Administration, loves combining two of his greatest passions – business and science. Joining the faculty at CBA last fall provided him the opportunity to do just that, leading both international business efforts and exciting new study abroad programs.
“I always want to connect science with business,” said Osiri. It’s one thing to invent something and another to have an invention become an innovation and make an impact. When I came to Nebraska, I saw the opportunity for business students to work with engineering students in economic development.”
Osiri, who earned an undergraduate degree in analytical chemistry from Grambling State University and a Ph.D. in bioanalytical chemistry from Louisiana State University, brings business and engineering students together for a new study abroad program happening in Uganda
“There is a woman in Uganda who collects drinking straws. She cleans and flattens them by hand with a knife and then weaves them into bags, floor mats, table mats and other practical items,” said Osiri. “She has trained over 730 women since she started. Our engineering students are building a machine to flatten straws in an automated fashion at a rate of 100 per minute. The business students are writing a comprehensive business plan to go with it. We are all working together, with the business students giving input to the engineering students and vice versa.”
A native Nigerian who grew up in the Republic of Benin in West Africa, Osiri believes cultural differences transform through exposure to other types of people. Those are often national differences, but he also sees them in other contexts.
“There are differences in occupational cultures too,” he said. “Our business students learn the culture in engineering is different than business, and they’re having to work through those issues on the project. It’s fascinating to watch them respond and it will help them in their careers.”
The Uganda program happens over spring break in March. This summer another new study abroad program starts in Spain
. Students will spend three days in Aix-en-Provence, France, before traveling to Barcelona, Spain, with the majority of the program in Valencia, Spain.
An activity called the Husker Race forces students into a scavenger hunt to track down some of the most important monuments in Valencia.
“We are going to make student teams find some of the most historical, economic and socially significant places in the area. We give students maps and instructions, and they have to ask local residents in Spanish for directions. As they identify locations, they photograph them and video tape themselves speaking the language,” he said.
Osiri also designed a practicum which puts students in real-world situations where they need to be resourceful and solve problems. Once again, the combination of business acumen and scientific research come into play.
“The same student teams that compete in the Husker Race will develop a business plan for Nievina laboratorio, a skin care company, to help them enter the U.S. market. They will present their ideas to company executives at the end of the program,” he said.
At CBA, Osiri’s efforts to broaden the international business program include an inaugural World Trade Fair which debuted December 2015. His students developed interactive presentations for the fair to engage with attendees in a one-on-one format to help participants learn more about foreign cultures and business.
Osiri enjoys working at a college where new activities are able to flourish in a short amount of time.
“What helped bring me to CBA is the entrepreneurial spirit here. The energy is contagious because CBA is all about doing something great,” said Osiri. “Being able to collaborate between science and business is always in my mind, and accomplishing it here in Nebraska has been wonderful.”