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Fall 2010

Taira Koybaeva

New Management Professor adds International Insight

Photo by Sterling Morris

Professor Taira Koybaeva was born in Volgograd Russia and has since spent time working and studying in many places throughout the world where she learned a number of languages. In addition to Russian and English, Professor Koybaeva speaks Ukrainian, Ossetian, and German.

Professor Koybaeva received her Ph.D. from Saint Petersburg State University and currently serves as a fellow on the Technology and Global Security Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She will be an Associate Professor of Management for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

What will you focusing on in the Management Department?

I will concentrate on developing international agenda for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Since I have been an international relations advisor and international management consultant on quite a few joint business ventures, I will try to apply my academic expertise and practical experience to developing new classes in international business and do joint international business research with my colleagues and the students of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Why did you choose to come to the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business?

For more than a decade, I was involved in international policy making activities at the highest levels of government in Washington D.C and as interesting as it was for me to assist in building diplomatic bridges between nations, I came to a firm personal conclusion that business is one of the most constructive and modern forms of human activity. More often than not, it moves diplomatic agenda in the right direction faster than politics. I also saw that Utah State University in general and Huntsman School of Business in particular are in a very unique position to develop a superb first rate, cutting edge international business program. Our college has a critical mass of students with significant international experience. I just can’t help but want to be of assistance in developing this new international agenda for our students and assist them in finding their own place in a new rapidly changing world.

As a part of this next generation of Huntsman faculty, what imprint do you think your generation will have on the higher-education landscape?

As far as I am concerned, I will do my best to help building the most innovative, comprehensive and competitive international business program we can possibly achieve. I intend to facilitate the growth of our international educational programs. I will focus on the area of my expertise: Eastern and Southern Europe, Northern and Southern Caucasus, Central Asia and all areas of the former Soviet Union. These regions are undergoing tremendous transformation and are being integrated into the world economy as we speak. We all know that a time of great changes is a time of great opportunities. I want us to be the first ones on the block in these regions and thus create educational, business, and professional opportunities for our students. I will also teach already existing international business classes, develop new innovative international business classes and do research in the area of global leadership, cultural aspects of international management, and organizational behavior.

When it comes to your research, what are you most passionate about?

I feel like a kid in a candy store. There are so many interesting things that are transpiring in the world right now that I wish there were 48 hours in every day to research. As an international business consultant, I have a chance to directly see the role of culture in business—be it a national culture or organizational culture. I am specifically interested in cultural aspects of global leadership, international management, and business negotiations.

What has been most rewarding to you as a teacher or researcher so far?

I was always driven by the desire to learn how to do something and then transfer the knowledge to someone else. Having been directly involved in international business and political endeavors I learned how to become “a seamless transnational”. Now I am passionate to pass on this skill to my students. It is an incredible experience to see a student discover his or her talents and then learn how to channel them in the current market. When I help a student understand that he or she can indeed follow their particular inclinations and become successful at the same time, it is worth all the grueling work I had to go through to discover this on my own.

Who was your favorite professor as an undergraduate student? How did that professor shaped the way your professorial approach?

I was very fortunate to get a first rate education in one of the most prestigious schools in Russia: Saint Petersburg University. One of my professors there, his name was Theodore Mauler, kept mentioning a mysterious name: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He told us that many scientific innovations came from that institution. The name had a magical ring to it, a symbol of a different world, a world that was closed to me at that time. Many years later I became a fellow at that institution and started visiting it on a regular basis. I now try to convey to my students the possibility of the “impossible dream.”

What is the strangest or most unusual thing that you experienced as an undergraduate or graduate student?

I was a student at the time of great changes in the Soviet Union. The process of a seemingly great and strong “superpower” collapsing so unexpectedly and so irrevocably is an unforgettable experience for more reasons than one and is not for a faint of heart. One learns a great deal from such experiences. I acquired is the ability to see hidden developments before they become obvious to the general public.

What should we be emphasizing as we work with students at the Huntsman School of Business?

We should continuously be alerting our students to the fact that the world is changing very rapidly and they need to invent new recipes for professional success. The recipe of the previous generation, aimed at the success in one country and one culture, will not work any more. The developments in other countries are leveling the playing field. Our students will live in a very different world than their parents did. If they do not internalize this truth they will be left behind. But there is a method to the madness: if they capitalize on the best parts of American national character they are bound to become extremely successful.

What is your favorite book and how has it influenced your thinking and behavior?

It is a very easy question to answer. When I first started bringing Russian and Ukrainian political delegations to the United States (they represented very high levels of their governments), I noticed that there was one major question almost emblazoned on their foreheads: “Why and how on earth did this country got so successful economically? They are not more educated than we are, not smarter than we are. Then why and how did it happen?” I recognized this unspoken question very easily because I, myself, was asking this question before and after I moved to the United States. I found the answer, very unexpectedly for myself, in a book, called “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey. This book became my guiding light and still is.