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USF Muma College of Business professor awarded Core Fulbright grant

Grandon Gill speaking to students

USF Professor Grandon Gill recently received one of academia's most prestigious awards. But the research for which he received the Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant is more than just academic - he is helping universities in Africa teach students how to use technology in their business and personal lives.

Gill will travel to South Africa this summer to help faculty learn how to write case studies and use cases in their classes. He is recognized internationally for his work in case method research and has received two National Science Foundation grants in the past to develop case studies at USF - one $300,000 grant in 2014 and another for $170,000 in 2011.

This Fulbright award is the first Core Fulbright ever received by a USF Muma College of Business faculty member. With the Fulbright grant, Gill will introduce the case method as an alternative way to teach, research, and contribute new knowledge to both the business and academic sphere.

"If you look at South Africa - We talk about inequality in this country, but take the inequality in this country and multiply it by 100 and you have South Africa," Gill said.

The case study method, made famous by Harvard Business School (where Gill is an alumnus), examines the processes behind decisions that companies make, and asks students to analyze those decisions in order to build their business-related critical thinking skills. Last year, he was presented the Lifetime Research Achievement Award: Zbigniew Gackowski Memorial Award for Excellence in Informing Science Research, presented by Informing Science Institute. A special issue of Management Decision honored Gill's contributions, publishing "Management Learning Case Writing, Discussion, and Impacts: Theory, Methods, and Practice Honoring the Contributions of T. Grandon Gill."

Africa has some great universities, Gill said, but many of these universities have adopted the same focus on research that is prevalent in American academia. Gill worries that it is not clear that such a research focus will give African universities the impact that the poorer continent needs, and such research is often expensive to do well.

Gill will be in South Africa using the flexible option of the Fulbright grant, which allows him to spend one to two months there over the summer, for three consecutive years, visiting universities both big and small.

"It was really a perfect fit with what Fulbright is looking for, because they're looking for people who will go out and engage with the local community, who will learn in the process, and who will help the local community learn," Gill said. "I had no idea that I was positioning myself for a Fulbright, but as soon as I saw what they were looking for I thought, 'That's exactly what I'd like to do.'"

Gill will help local South African professors write cases related to e-readiness, the use of technology in life and business. Because of inequality and poverty in South Africa, much of the population does not know how to use technology, but the continued lack of e-readiness means the playing field continues to be uneven. These cases will bring knowledge from business back into the classroom and pass it along to students, who will then take it back out into the businesses they work for or start.

"When you develop case studies, particularly the discussion cases that I specialize in, it forces the faculty members to go out into the local and business communities," Gill said. "The problem is, you can't just do that in a vacuum. Especially when you're just getting started, you need someone who knows a little bit about case writing and understands what you're trying to achieve."

Gill said case research continues to excite him because of the relationships he builds through doing it. Whether the cases he created for the MIS capstone course, the cases in cybersecurity for the master's program, or the case study he developed for the Naval Postgraduate School, he said each case connects businesses back to the classroom.

"By doing this kind of case writing, you can see visible impact from your research," he said. "It's not people citing your articles or how many journals you're in. It's a manager saying, 'I changed my decision as a result of your study.'"