By any standard, Dr. Georgine Konyu-Fogel is a laser-focused and driven business professional. She has a thriving consulting business, providing guidance—usually regarding marketing strategies or international business issues—to start-up companies, as well as small to mid-sized established organizations. Dr. Konyu-Fogel speaks regularly and writes prolifically on various research topics of interest to her, most notably on business adaptation to an increasingly globalized, 21st century economy. And, of course, she is an educator. The faculty mentor in the CalSouthern School of Business has also taught at a number of traditional, brick-and-mortar institutions, as well.
However, in a conversation with Dr. Konyu-Fogel, it’s her generous nature that quickly becomes apparent. She cares deeply about her students, their educational experience and their professional development. She’s always available to provide guidance, and often goes the extra mile by involving her students in her research, helping them develop professional networks or encouraging them in their own writing.
We share a recent conversation with Dr. Konyu-Fogel below.
California Southern University: To say you have a full plate is quite an understatement. You are a professor, a business consultant, a researcher and a prolific writer. Do you have a favorite among these aspects of your professional career? Do they complement one another?
Dr. Georgine Konyu-Fogel: I see myself as an educator first. And, since I specialize in business and marketing in my teaching, I want to make sure my expertise is as up to date as possible, in terms of practice and application—I want to give my students the most current and practical education possible. My consulting and writing allows me to do that.
The consulting work is a passion of mine; I love to help start-up businesses and existing organizations that need my assistance in solving specific business challenges. It’s very exciting and rewarding work for me, both a learning experience as well as an opportunity to practice what I teach. Parenthetically, I try to involve my students in my work as much as possible, for example, to give them real-life experience or to supply them with material for a case study, etc.
The research and writing complements everything else that I do, and I very much enjoy presenting my findings at conferences—as well as learning and being inspired by other speakers at these events. These sorts of projects also force me to take a broader view of the particular subject area and to put the various elements into perspective, which is an extremely valuable exercise, in my opinion. In addition, it serves a useful function: often, I can help validate or justify business concepts by providing evidence of their successful application in the field.
CalSouthern: What are some current areas of research that you are interested in?
Dr. Konyu-Fogel: I have been looking at the 21st century business economy and all the associated complexities and challenges that it has ushered in, such as globalization and rapid technology development and adaptation. And I do so with a focus on the evolving leadership skills necessary to excel in this environment, as well as the new organizational design models that can give today’s businesses a competitive edge.
CalSouthern: Where did your initial interest in business come from?
Dr. Konyu-Fogel: For me, it began early in life. I grew up in Hungary and my high school was a specialized school, an international trade and business academy. The course of study was akin to a collegiate business curriculum. My first collegiate degree—also earned in Hungary—was from the College of International Trade and Business, which helped prepare young business professionals to work as a representative in foreign trade [Dr. Fogel also holds a DBA from Lawrence Technological University, as well as an MBA and MS in integrated marketing communications from West Virginia University]. At that time in Hungary, foreign trade was monopolized by the government. You had to be licensed by the Ministry of Foreign Trade to work in exporting or importing.
So business, particularly international business, has been my focus since my high school days. It is in my blood, I suppose. It’s how I view the world. While I love music, art and other cultural things, I am wired for understanding news and world events from within an international business context.
CalSouthern: Having taught at a variety of traditional and online institutions, you have a rather unique perspective. What are some of online education’s benefits and challenges, vis-a-vis traditional institutions?
Dr. Konyu-Fogel: To start with online’s challenges, the biggest one is probably the most obvious: it can sometimes feel like a solitary endeavor, without the benefits that spontaneous, face-to-face interaction with professors and fellow students can provide. However, professors can ameliorate that problem to a large degree by being available and responsive, and by providing detailed and personalized feedback. Also, increasingly we are seeing that technology—video, voice over PowerPoint, etc.—is beginning to bridge that gap, too.
The number-one benefit—and it can’t be overstated—is the wonderful educational opportunity it provides to working professionals and other non-traditional students—an opportunity that often would not exist otherwise.
Another interesting and overlooked benefit of online education is that it leads the way in terms of developing outcomes assessment measures. The better institutions have been innovative in these sorts of accountability initiatives as a way of establishing the rigor and quality of the online learning model. Online institutions have put pressure on traditional, on-ground schools to provide evidence that their students exhibit an acceptable level of competency after taking their classes or programs. Traditional schools are playing catch-up in this area.
CalSouthern: You mentioned that a challenge of online education was avoiding a sense of isolation on the part of the student. What are a few ways a student can feel connected to the institution and make the best of the faculty mentor-learner relationship?
Dr. Konyu-Fogel: Students can offer a personal and professional introduction to the faculty mentor over and above what is required, either with an email or phone call. This makes a big difference. Anything that can allow the relationship to become more personal is helpful, in my opinion. Of course, this can be initiated by the faculty mentor, as well, and I try to reach out to my students with a personal message both at the beginning and end of the course.
Once the relationship is formed, all sort of opportunities are possible, even beyond the more personalized assignment feedback one would expect. For example, I am happy to provide references for learners, or give any professional advice they might need, even years after they have finished the course. I have helped students get their written work published, involved interested students in research projects that I am working on, and helped them develop professional networks. I know that other mentors do the same. It is definitely in a learner’s interest to take the initiative and reach out to their faculty mentors.
CalSouthern: What skills would you encourage business students to focus on? In your opinion, are there any specific business careers that are “hot” right now?
Dr. Konyu-Fogel: In addition to the coursework, I would focus on developing certain “soft” skills. So much of what makes a person successful in business goes far beyond specific business knowledge or skills. The use of creativity in problem solving is very important. Communication skills are exceedingly critical. And this is about far more than merely using proper grammar. It’s about knowing your audience and being strategic with your communication, knowing what your audience is looking for, perceiving and meeting their needs, as well as anticipating and preemptively answering their questions.
Leadership skills are also crucial. Some students may not aspire to leadership positions, but understanding the dynamics remains important. It’s all about effectively managing relationships in the workplace, whether it’s from the bottom-up or the top-down. You can still advance yourself—even if you don’t aspire to leadership—by creating the best possible working relationships with your co-workers and managers.
Other skills that I see growing in significance in the 21st century are the ability to manage a diverse workforce and to coordinate virtual teams.
As far as careers, I see human resources as a growth area, both in sheer numbers and in importance. A real paradigm shift is taking place in the field. Whereas human resources was once more transaction-oriented, we now see HR professionals increasingly participating in organizations’ strategic development across business organizations of all sizes.