Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thank you, Vienna, and the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration

The four days in Vienna have come to an end. The majesty of the Hofburg Palace with its state rooms, the beauty of the works of art in the Leopold Museum and the Albertina, the echoes of the music in the apartments of Beethoven and Mozart, are now embedded as memories. Vienna is a European capital in which time seems to have stood still. I managed to find the apartment where my mother lived with my uncle in the mid-1940s while they were students at the University of Vienna and the Technical University of Vienna, respectively. I saw the church where they had worshipped and where my uncle fell in love with my aunt only to see her again as refugees in New York City. What struck me most about this glorious city was the elegance -- of the architecture, the shops (from stamp collector shops to all sorts of specialty shops, including marvelous chocolate stores, and leather, hat, and clothing stores), and of the people. Music could be heard most everywhere that we walked.

It was safe to stroll through parks at night. The city was so clean and the transportation infrastructure simply fantastic! As we had seen last summer in Paris, there were bike rental units set up on the streets, the colorful trams flowed quietly and in a timely fashion, and our taxi driver to the airport showed up dressed in a suit and tie! I inquired of many that I met about the impact of the economic crisis and was told that Vienna and the Viennese are conservative; "we value what we have, and we are not (yet) feeling any effects of the global slowdown."

Against this magnificent backdrop, in a city of highest culture, and a center for the arts, literature, music, science, and psychology/psychiatry, I gave my invited lecture at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. The title of my lecture was "Synergies and Vulnerabilities of Supply Chain Networks in a Global Economy." Professor Manfred Fischer, my esteemed host, along with his assistant, Mr. Thomas Seyffertitz, made the wonderful arrangements for my lecture and visit. I very much appreciated their attention to detail and the specialness of the formalities. For example, Full Professors are assigned seats in the lecture hall with name tags and sit in the front of the room. The speaker is escorted by the host once everyone is seated and then introduced.

Time, indeed, "stood still." My lecture was to begin at 5PM and did so shortly therafter. When I next glanced at my watch it was 7PM! The questions that I received from the audience were brilliant and will generate further research. I was also so pleased to see so many females in the audience, which included faculty, students, and researchers from business specialties, from transportation, engineering, and statistics.

The innovations at Professor Manfred Fischer's Institute are amazing -- from an MBA with a specialty in infrastructure management to a new Master's program in supply chain management that will include different specialties, including a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) one. The dinner that followed in a local "pub" allowed for a continuation of the discussions and conversations in which we identified similarities/differences between business education in the US and in Austria (notably, in Vienna). We also discussed the importance of scholarship and adding to the scientific literature through one's research and the value of collaborative research. To see Professor Fischer's office filled with journals and his numerous books and articles is to be inspired!

I cannot thank my hosts sufficiently for the outstanding warmth and hospitality extended to me. Also, to see how Vienna "works" in 2009 is to have hope for the world. It is time to value what truly matters and "lasts."