Pécsi Tudományegyetem

University of Pécs


Seeing the World as One Large Campus

Interview with a Fulbright Professor

Jay Nathan is an American professor of management at Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University in New York. He spent two weeks in Pécs in the framework of the Fulbright Specialist Program. It was my pleasure to have a conversation with him about globalisation, success and travel. In addition, as he has a soft spot for Hungary, before leaving, he told me with a big smile that he would hopefully come back and would like to found a scholarship for students to have the opportunity to take part in exchange programmes between Hungary and the USA.


Professor Jay Nathan, Fulbright professor from St. John's University, New York; photo: Szabolcs Csortos, UnivPécs

How did you like Hungary and Pécs? What have been the most memorable parts during these two weeks?

I would mention the Cella Septichora, a UNESCO heritage sight, the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter and architecture in general. Walking through the city, I could see different, unique buildings decorated with Zsolnay tiles. I enjoyed the professional parts of my stay as well. I met high-school students and I talked about American universities, exchange programmes, the global nature of countries and cultures. Then I delivered my second lecture at the Faculty of Business and Economics. It was a discussion about value and the impact of international relations on global supply chains. It was really interesting to see that most of the participants were international students. Cultural diversity is very high at Hungarian universities, which is actually similar to that at St. John’s.


As far as I know, you are conducting research on globalisation and you have your own definition of it.

I have been rethinking the textbook definition of globalisation, which is overused, something like a cliché. My view is that globalization is the interconnection of countries and cultures, which provides the platform or framework for net positive growth in global GDP. Generally, people would say, globalisation is an international trade between countries on goods and services, capital and new technology – this is the economic approach. However, there are several other ways of looking at globalisation. It is not happening just in this period. There have been several ways of globalisation during history. In some ways it is different nowadays because of the intensity or the flow of information and people’s mobility. Globalisation is not beneficial for all the countries because some of them have limited knowledge in using technology, thereby they are dropped behind. But if these countries improved their technology and education, and achieved to be at the level where the top ten countries are, it would be more positive. So leaving some countries behind when a nation does well could affect countries lagging behind slightly negatively, but overall it is a positive growth.


You are dealing with globalisation, which is definitely too broad a concept. To what topics have you narrowed down your scientific work?

In the last twenty years, I have been doing more country studies with a special focus on industries and businesses. I have recently published a book on Kazakhstan, and very recently, I begun to deal with Hungary, specifically, with the impact of major industries on GDP.


Jay Nathan, Fulbright professor from St. John's University, New York and József Bódis, Rector of the University of Pécs; photo: Szabolcs Csortos, UnivPécs


You are going to write a book about Hungary. Let us know more details if possible.

I do not know the details yet, but I would like to concentrate on the uniqueness of Hungary’s geographical location: it has such a good access to the West and the business culture here is very friendly. Otherwise, if you take the ballpoint pen, Vitamin C or other important Hungarian inventions, you can see what an intellectual capacity Hungary has in science and technology. As a business professor for several years, I have always been fascinated by Hungary. Not only because of my teaching and research interest, but because of the fact how rapidly this small country started rising after 1989. I tried to bring these thoughts into articles and it will perhaps turn into a book. It is going to take time, but I will definitely try it.


You have travelled a lot. Which one of your journeys was the most decisive and most important?

All of them are equally important. Each country and their people have their own way of life and I have been transformed by that. Being a business professor in the last more than twenty-five years, I focused on countries and cultures. This perspective allowed me to experience the world as one large campus. In fact, this current exchange is a privilege and I am really humbled to be here at the University of Pécs, because it is really a dream: you are involved and can get some new understanding of how people think. Anywhere I went, I experienced to what extent people show hospitality. Of course, there are slight differences: in food and cultural staff. But overall, everybody wants the same: high quality of life and good education.


So more similarities than differences?

Yes, exactly. More similarities than differences. Thank you.


Professor Jay Nathan, Fulbright professor from St. John's University, New York; photo: Szabolcs Csortos, UnivPécs 

How can you contextualize your travel experiences into teaching?

All the courses I teach are in the intersection of countries and cultures. If you want to teach leadership, you talk about international business, different countries, value, which shows certain characteristics, and people. Therefore, in some countries, people are more individualistic, in some other ones they are more collectivist, they work in groups and teams. I usually mention my travel experiences as examples, supporting these categories. I tell my students that I have been to Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It is really useful, because for example those, who have never been to Mongolia, do not think that it has such a European attitude. In such a diverse environment which St. John’s University provides, we, professors should make students ensured, what we teach can be applied in different countries and not exclusively in the USA. International companies are actively engaged with many countries, so working for an American company can mean that you have to work in France, Mexico or Ghana, while applying the same knowledge.


As a professor, how can you motivate your students?

I used to work in business in an American international corporation. After the early years of my career, I gained practical experience and I decided to earn my PhD. After that, I wanted to bring my practical experience into universities. I was on the practical side, so I thought I should teach, and after a while, teaching became my passion. I try to approach my lectures with a balance between theory and practice: I usually use cases, introduce the latest technological improvements, such as 3D printing or robot intelligence, because knowing these are inevitable on the job market.


Jay Nathan, Fulbright professor from St. John's University, New York and József Bódis, Rector of the University of Pécs; photo: Szabolcs Csortos, UnivPécs


What do you think, how can a company or an individual become successful in an economic sense?

That is an excellent question, actually all your questions have been excellent. Everybody has a view of success, but especially in the international culture, there is a European view of success and an American view of success. For me, having money or being rich seems to be just one factor. Even thoughmoney is important, it just helps to do things. There are inventors who do not know at the beginning whether it is useful what they are doing. They are not persuaded of the things they have done, but they are persuaded of their passion. Let us think of Steve Jobs and Apple computers, or we can also mention Bill Gates, and I think, in Hungary you can mention the success story of the Zsolnay family for example. These individuals dedicated their time and their products to others, while they affected the whole society significantly. The impact was felt not just on their countries, but on the global society as well. All in all, the context of overall life is how I measure success.


Bianka SZABÓ


You shall not pass!