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Business professor is visiting scholar in New Zealand

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 14, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Chris Street (seated third from right) with his students at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he is a visiting scholar.
Chris Street (seated third from right) with his students at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he is a visiting scholar. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jean-Gregorie Bernard.

As we enter the summer season in Saskatchewan, professor Dr. Chris Street has been hunkering down for the winter in New Zealand.

Street is an associate professor (entrepreneurship) in the Faculty of Business Administration. As part of his sabbatical, Street has been a visiting scholar at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, teaching two courses and working on his research projects.

We spoke with Chris about his sabbatical and how his experience at Victoria University will help his students when he returns to the U of R.

What has your experience been like so far at Victoria University?

New Zealand University
The Victoria University Business School located within the centre of Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo courtesy of Chris Street)

It's been a great experience in terms of exploring new approaches to teaching and developing student-driven research.

The classes I'm teaching are a third year application programming course and fourth year honours course in managing digital innovation. I'm working with the School of Information Management in the business school at Victoria University and their program involves emphasis in technical courses like programming and systems analysis but also in having fourth year business students developing their own research programs.

The program is set up similar to what we'd see in other Canadian business schools. The teaching environment is also very recognizable, the same types of lecture theaters, digital presentation equipment and classroom layouts, library and support services. And the faculty of course are from all over the world, much the same as we'd see in Regina.
 
What are the students like?

University students are much more alike around the world then we sometimes give credit for, similar ages and exposure to pop culture, similar concerns and aspirations.

The Kiwi students are no different. At first it seems the only difference is the accent. After getting to know the students though the differences start to come through. World exposure is one aspect. The typical Victoria student considers Europe and particularly the UK as being a place to go for work after university is complete, much more so than I've encountered with Canadian students.

Perhaps due to the Commonwealth background, the Kiwi students often see the United States and Canada as places to holiday but not necessarily as a place to work or continue study.  
 
Tell us a little more about the courses you are teaching
 
The programming course has been a refreshing experience because I've wanted to teach an intro-level course like this for several years but we don't have this type of course in the business school. There are slightly under 100 students.

The course centers around a semester-long project to develop a web-based application using the C# programming language. About half the students are from the computer science faculty and I think they take the course for the chance to practice with the C# language, the other half are business students who take the course, I believe, to learn programming basics and development processes like Agile and Scrum.

The honors innovation course is much smaller, 15 students who take the course as part of an honours level degree. The honours program at the School of Information Management is heavily research focused and this course is run much like a first year masters-level graduate seminar.
 
From your experience in New Zealand, what do you feel you will bring back to the U of R that will help students here?
 
Through time spent at Victoria in Wellington and for a brief time at Auckland Business School last month I've had an opportunity to experience and inquire about several new ideas that I'm looking forward to exploring when I get back to Regina.

While in Auckland I was invited to a special event that was run in conjunction with the graduation that was going on. The Information Systems and Operations Management group (ISOM) at the business school recognizes the student in each ISOM course with the highest mark and invites them and their family along with representatives from the business community to an awards evening where the students receive certificates of recognition.

This is likely the most celebratory concept I've seen but there are several other administrative processes they do behind the scenes that could be applied to our benefit. The courses have provided opportunities to explore new ideas as well. Seeing first-hand the practical requirements for teaching a heavily technical course like programming in a business school was informative because this type of course isn't often available.

If I had to point out the single most interesting concept it would have to be the oral final exam format I'm using in the honours innovation course. Oral exams are common in other disciplines and in graduate business contexts like PhD dissertation defenses, but it's much less common in undergraduate business courses.

Our intent at the school was to provide a challenging exam context for the students, and one that expanded their experience, while making it a realistic challenge from them to prepare for.