International student exchange: interview with James E. Burrows, University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce

by Takuya Sayuwatari, Reporter

Burroughs

In our new international exchange student series, we follow special reporter Takuya Sayuwatari (Japan) as he interviews American students and faculty members to analyze the differences between Japanese and American educational systems as he decides which American college is the best fit for him. Here, he interviews James (Jim) E. Burroughs, Rolls-Royce Commonwealth Professor of Commerce at the  University of Virginia’s McIntire School of  Commerce and head of McIntire’s Japan exchange program.

What is the McIntire program in Tokyo? What do students do there other than studying that most enhances their futures in business?

All McIntire students must undergo a “capstone” international experience in which they must spend one month immersed in another region of the globe outside the United States. The program I run is the “East Asia” track which includes visits to Tokyo, Kyoto, Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. While in these locations students do a variety of activities, including studying at Peking University and visiting cultural sites, but the primary activity is to visit corporations and meet with top executives at these firms to learn about their businesses and the economic climate in Japan, Korea, etc. Most of these executives are alumni of the University of Virginia. We will also visit embassies, trade delegations, ministry officials, etc.

Why did you decide to become the head of McIntire’s Japan program?

I have been involved in student programs all over the world including Denmark, Germany, Spain, UK, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia, as well as East Asia. I feel it is incredibly important for today’s students (especially business students) to gain a global perspective since at this point the world’s economies are all intertwined. For example, when the U.S. housing market crashed, that affected the whole world. I also want students to be comfortable forming business relationships and friendships with people from many different cultures, and this requires students to experience people from places like Japan in their daily life. I really enjoy Japan. There was a time when Japan was the fastest ascending economy in the world with stalwart companies like Sony, Toyota, etc. Today there has been more focus on China and, to a lesser degree Korea, as the new Asian tigers while Japan has endured the “lost decade(s)” and more recently Abenomics to try and turn Japan’s fortunes around, But I don’t see this as particualarly surprising or concerning. Japan’s economy is still extremely powerful (the 3rd largest in the world). It is still a highly innovative place. I think its long-term prospects are solid, and it will resume a positive growth trajectory (though not at the unsustainable levels of the 1980s). So if students want to go where the action is, economically speaking, they have to go to Asia. And if they are going to go to Asia then they have to understand the major players in the region, this includes Japan. This is why I head the program.

How does your relationship with Japan influence your career and the careers of those who visit Japan?

I am not sure to what degree it affects my own career at this point (I don’t tend to approach it from for personal gain, but rather for what it can do for students and young people coming up). That is the advantage of being a senior professor, you have the luxury of being able to make decisions in the best interest of others. That said, I think to be a business professor you have to be current and maintain an international view, and I’m not sure this can be done sitting at a computer in one country, you have to get out there. In terms of my students’ careers, I think they have incredible opportunities to work and grow their careers in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, Japan has challenges because it has not historically embraced immigration in the way some of its neighbors have, which does create some insularity risks. I still think American students can work in Japan and I encourage them to explore options, but I would like to see more seamless movement among different economies as it is good for everyone.

What do you and your students try to learn in the Japan program?

We primarily study business and the Japanese economy. Lately this includes the recent struggles Japan has had, and also its recent policy initiatives to get back on course. However, you really can’t study business in a vaacuum, so we also study geopolotical issues. The recent spate over the Senkaku Islands is a good example. Here you have a largely insignificant body of land that becomes the center of a major political struggle between Japan and China. At the same time, China and Japan are intimately dependent upon one another for trade. So how do these tensions get resolved? How are they viewed? You have to experience this “on the ground” so we really try to understand the current challenges of the region in a very comprehensive way, but always bringing the conversation back to the business climate.

How does the McIntire program in Tokyo enhance students’ learning?

I have probably answered this already, but the bottom line is that it is impossible to be a global citizen if you have an insular mindset. So student learn a great deal, not only about the cultures they visit, but also about themselves. This is often a transformative experience for them, particularly if they have not traveled extensively before.

What are students’ popular opinions about the Japanese business program after they finish it? 

I think they have a more balanced view. For example, Japan has supposedly had this terrible recession, but when you look at daily life in a city like Tokyo, it is hard to see it (people go about daily life). I think students also have to recalibrate their views of Japan. They often see it as a pretty exotic locale (which I guess it is coming from the U.S.) but when you get to Tokyo you quickly learn that it is a very modern, very livable city. It has all the amenities of any major city in the U.S., and this often comes as a surprise to students. When such myths are erased, students become much more open to embracing the culture and even perhaps making it a larger part of their career plans. They also get to meet Japanese students and quickly find that students are pretty much the same everywhere. Of course, I’m not usually a part of this socializing, but the students tell me about it.

When you visit Japan, what aspects of the Japanese business culture are you impressed by and why? 

I think Japan is a very powerful economy and in the long run I have no doubt that Japan will remain a major player on the Asian and world economic stage for a long time to come. Japan continues to be an outstanding high-tech manufacturing center. It is very efficient with a common commitment to the country. Japanese people are very industrious. It has among the highest per capita education levels in Asia. At the same time, Japan has challenges related to its education system in terms of fostering innovation and creativity. It also has a history of being somewhat insular (though that is rapidly changing, particularly in places like Tokyo). So its like anywhere, it has its impressive aspects, and its limitations and that’s the point (because so does the U.S.). Students learn to see Japan in balance, impressed with some aspects and finding opportunities to do better in others. There is a tendency to see one’s own country in a mixed way, but to stereotype other cultures entirely one way. Visiting Japan provides a more balanced perspective.  By the way, I’m sure Japanese students have the same tendency to view other cultures this way, so its equally important for them to leave their comfort zone and visit places like the United States. We actively work to get students from all over the world to study at places like the  McIntire School and the University of Virginia. These exchanges enrich students from other cultures, and enrich the environment to which they become a part.

What are some common cross cultural mistakes that Americans make when they try to do business in Japan and vice versa?

This is a common question and I’ll respond by saying it’s the wrong question in some ways. There are, of course, cultural differences and these differences can create difficulties but here is what I have found. Nobody actually cares that much whether you understand the nuances of a culture, in fact people understand that is very difficult. What they really care about is your attitude. Take the Japanese bow for example, and let’s imagine that an American bows too deeply (an apologetic bow). One interpretation would be that the American doesn’t understand Japanese culture, but that’s not the way it gets treated. Rather, the Japanese person is impressed that the American has gone to the effort to try to respect and appreciate Japanese tradition, even if they get it partly wrong. And this is true anywhere in the world. As long as you respect the culture and the people, and show you are eager to learn, then almost anything else is forgiven.

The same is true of language by the way. Today English is spoken widely as the common business language everywhere in the world, which Americans are the natural beneficiaries of. However, taking the time to learn some of the basics of conversation so that you can show appreciation and gratitude is very important. When a student shows this initiative, it doesn’t matter if their Japanese is imperfect, people will still bend over backwards trying to help.

So its really not a question of misunderstandings, it’s a question of attitude. Sometimes Americans could learn to be more accepting of other cultures (the Ugly American idiom) but the truth is most of my students love their experience in Japan and enjoy throwing themselves into the culture, including its customs, language, and norms. This is what matters, because everything else will work out fine once the right attitude is in place.

What are obvious business differences between America and Japan in terms of the relationships between customers and companies?

I think that the relationships between Japanese firms and other firms tend to be very closely tied (as well as to other entities such as the government). In the U.S. relationships are still important, but I don’t think that the strength of these ties is as strong or enduring. Like anything, this has its advantages and drawback. For example, these close ties can make Japanese firms formidable competitors. At the same time, it is harder to adapt when environmental conditions change. Another difference is in cultural hierarchy. Japanese tend to be more hierarchically oriented (e.g. the “boss” is higher than the “employee” and this difference is strong). This is true of a lot of other Asian cultures as well. In the U.S. cultural hierarchies are flatter (and more informal). Thus, the “boss” is not always placed as high in the view of the employee as they might be in Japan. There is still a hierarchy in America, but it tends to be flatter. Once again, this has implications (both positive and negative). Japanese firms are often efficient and can respond quickly, but this also means personal creativity and initiative can be more difficult to draw out.

Interestingly, with greater interaction I think these differences are eroding. I have visited a number of firms in Japan that are headed by Japanese executives that were trained in American business schools. The result is they bring an interesting amalgam of American style and Japanese style management practices to their firms. One firm that particularly comes to mind has a very “open concept” office space (even the CEO has a desk in the middle of the floor). Employees are also encouraged to leave before their bosses if they have reason to do so, which is obviously a very “American” thing to do. So it is something you would expect to see in Silicon Valley at Google or Facebook, and here it is in Tokyo. As you would expect, the firm attracts very independent and creative individuals. At the same time, the firm retains distinctively Japanese cultural elements, particularly related to training, organization, support and socializing. So the firm has managed to leverage the best aspects of both cultures and this is a powerful combination.

Japanese culture pays lots attention to hospitality. How do you think it influences Japanese business people and their relationship with America?

I will say that Japanese customer service is some of the best in the world. I think there is an intrinsic pride in providing great service, even in low stature positions. People in Japan really take pride in their work. I think it is just part of the cultural fabric of Japan. Japanese are also extremely warm and welcoming, particularly on a personal level (it goes to the customer service issue above). It would be an insult in Japan not to extend every kindness and consideration to a visitor and so this translates into business and customer interactions. As a result I think most American businesspeople feel generally positively toward Japan and Japanese business people.

I read your paper on stimulating creativity in American executives. What, if any of these principles, do you think can be translated into Japanese business dealings, and if so, how? 

I think this is a very difficult issue. Historically our education system has been geared to proficiency and rote learning, not creativity. While creativity requires a strong knowledge foundation, in many respects structure, hierarchy, memorization, these things are the enemies of creativity. Over time, we have come to recognize this imbalance here in the U.S. and the education system has gradually shifted to place much greater emphasis on creative thinking and insight. However, America is also a place where the culture naturally lends itself to a lot of creativity because we highly value independence (and even irreverence) so making institutional changes is easier. The result is the U.S. is still a highly innovative economy.

But this is not news to the rest of the world, so I spend a lot of time interacting with academics from other places discussing the U.S. education system, and how it emphasizes things like creativity and independent thinking. This is important because the education becomes the foundation for everything else (like the workplace). At the same time, change is very difficult and glacial. I believe there is a saying in Japan that goes something like “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” with the obvious implication of the metaphor being “don’t be different.” Of course, if you want creativity then its all about being, thinking, and doing things different.

For example, in the U.S. if you challenge a professor you are seen as thinking independently, whereas in a lot of other places, including Japan, this would be seen as disrespectful. It is just very difficult to get that notion out of the head of someone who has been raised to believe that teachers are to be respected and not to question his or her ideas. Interestingly, this brings me back to my earlier point about the importance of multicultural exposure. Some of the very best students (best meaning willing to challenge my ideas, coming up with their own insights, etc.) come from places like Japan who are studying in the U.S. They just completely embrace this different way and try and get all they can out of it. At the same time, they also extremely value the professors’ insights because this comes naturally to them whereas American students are sometimes too eager to dismiss the professor’s position when he or she actually has a lot to offer. So the Japanese student studying in the U.S. gets the best of both worlds!

All of this said, I think it is also very dangerous to overgeneralize. The reality is that we tend to stereotype cultures (i.e. the Japanese are collectivist, Americans are individualistic) when the reality is there is a whole lot more variance within a culture than between them. In other words, even if Japan is more collectivist than America “on average”, there are still a whole lot of highly independent, creative individuals with great ideas lurking in Japan. So these entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t need to be created in Japan, so much as tapped. If Japanese companies can find ways to do this by being more proactive about encouraging employee creativity (and also training for it, rewarding it, etc. in what I discuss) then I think it could be tremendous for the Japanese economy.

Did you find any differences in how rewards affect the performances of employees in Japan vs. employees in America?

The research to which you refer was only conducted in the U.S., not Japan, so I can’t speak to how Japanese people might react differently but my suspicion is that you would see the same effects in Japan as we found here in the U.S. The reason is, the things that we were tapping into in that research seem pretty universal to human nature. In other words, all humans have a need for creativity and that being creative is intrinsically rewarding. This is not a cultural thing, it’s a human thing.  But perhaps there are some cultural differences and it would certainly be interesting to see if there are differences in Japan and what they portend.

How do you want to make the international business relationships between America and Japan stronger in the future?

That’s easy, continue to build and grow the type of programs I outline above—bringing American students to Japan, and Japanese students to America. Many of the problems in the world relate to ignorance and cultural misunderstanding. It is just very difficult not to get along with, and like, someone you know. Some of my most enjoyable experiences in Japan are sitting down with some Japanese colleagues and enjoying a casual dinner and intellectual conversation. Some of my students favorite memories are when they get to interact with Japanese students socially, perhaps going out for a drink or a coffee/tea. When you sit down with someone to learn about their interests, hopes, aspirations, and concerns, what you learn is that about 90% is shared in common. Once you have this connection, the economic relationships and exchanges take care of themselves.

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International student exchange: interview with Yash Agarwal, McIntire School of Business Class of 2015

By Takuya Sayuwatari, Reporter
Yash Agarwal

Yash Agarwal McIntire School of Commerce University of Virginia, 2015

In our new international exchange student series, we follow special reporter Takuya Sayuwatari (Japan) will be interviewing American students and faculty members to analyze the differences between Japanese and American educational systems as he decides which American college is the best fit for him. Here, he interviews Yash Agarwal, student president of University of Virginia’s investment club. 

Why did you decide to join  the investment club?
I started out in the Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) in my first year at the University of Virginia as an analyst and watched my responsibilities evolve since then.  I have always had a problem solving mindset and have viewed investing as a problem solving process at the very core.  AIF was pitched to me as a wholesome experience where I would learn various strategies and be able to apply them to understand different types of investments.  This excited me and convinced me to join it.
What are your tasks in the investment club?
I started out actively picking stocks based on heavy amounts of qualitative and quantitative research and finally pitching them to our General Body and the Investment Committee for the first couple years.  Subsequently, my role changed to running one of the four individual portfolios (Relative Value) and mentoring the younger members part of that group to teach them various research and valuation skills while serving as a resource to help them with their pitches.  In my final year now, I am serving as the CEO of AIF and run the recruitment process, talk to various investment professionals who are interested in being guest speakers, represent the club at investing competitions and run all general body and investment committee meetings.
What kinds of educational skills you have learned in class do you use in your work with the investment club?
In class, we have learned multiple valuation methodologies and worked in groups on many research projects with a number of companies.  In AIF we have used the learnings from those experiences to obtain an edge when we perform our own research to gain a differentiated point of view while analyzing ideas.  For example, I worked in a team last year as part of a class assignment with Rolls-Royce to determine a potential engine manufacturing bid for a leading business jet manufacturer.  That experience sharpened my research skills to help me when I pitch ides for AIF.  Over time with such experiences, I learned how to gather and use information that was known by only a few people instead of simply using easy-to-obtain information that is used by everyone.
What are important things to work as a member of the investment club?
Something I have noticed over the past four years in AIF is that students who truly care for their ideas and research every aspect of the pitch by spending a very large amount of time conducting their research are not only able to generate strong results but also end up learning the most from the experience.  Such experiences have strong long term impact for recruiting purposes too and help members in interviews when they have a vast set of ideas that they can talk about with such comfort because they know everything about it.  Besides, group dynamics play an important role too because within the individual portfolio groups inside AIF learning happens in a collaborative setting as a group and members learn from other members when people are willing to share new learnings.  Thus, we aim to collaborate internally to be as competitive as possible externally.  All of these are important behaviors to practice as an AIF member.
How does having an understanding of foreign markets affect investments domestically? 
Today, the word is too connected and understanding capital flows between countries is important as they can cause strong volatility in the short term for domestic markets and also influence long term trends.  Today, China holds a large amount of US Debt and part of this reason is that China has been a net exporter and generates a large amount of US Dollar holdings which must be put to use.  If this situation were to change going forward, the US currency could witness strong volatility and the demand for US Treasuries could reduce materially and influence financial markets and even foreign policy to start a string of changes which can affect a large number of industries.  This is only one example of how interconnectedness can impact the financial markets but understanding and being able to predict trends like these is important to making trades to generate strong returns.  In AIF, our Global Macro Group does a good job with making such trades.
What are the biggest challenges with running the investment club? 
I can think of three main challenges that we currently have while running AIF.  First, keeping members committed to the long term success of the fund involves a strong time commitment and regular check to see if all duties are being performed to the correct standard.  Second, we are currently in the process in raising more money for the fund and need to allocate more time to creating a pitch and meeting people to accomplish it.  Lastly, reviewing current positions requires us to train members constantly to review thesis points and stay up to date with news on the investment.  To summarize, the time commitment required is large and it is difficult to expect it from every member, but we try to do our best.
What have you learned from your successes in the investment club? 
From my experience in AIF, I have learned a lot about different investing strategies and how the world of Finance really works.  More importantly however, a large part of my learning is personal and through each individual experience, I have been able to see deeper into my own personality and understand where my strengths and weaknesses lie.  Making successful investments involves a tremendous amount of work-ethic, discipline and emotional strength in addition to the hard-skills in terms of analytical and research abilities.  I have come to understand that only time can teach me these and there is still a long way to go.
How do you think the investment club’s experience supports your future career?
Given the type of experience I have had in the club, I think it supports the career I would like to have.  I will start my career as an Investment Banking Analyst at Moelis and Company in New York City.  I have gained multiple research, behavioral and quantitative skills through AIF and these will help me if I am to rise up the ranks in Moelis or move to any Investment Management firm in the future.  Lastly, the network to which I have access because of my role in AIF is also very helpful if I want to further my career in this field.
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Psychiatric Boarding Illegal in Washington State: Now What?

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Laura Umetsu, Editor in Chief

Earlier this month, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that psychiatric boarding (the practice of keeping patients strapped to beds for up to a week in hospital emergency rooms without adequate treatment) is not only unethical, it is clearly illegal under Washington law. Civil liberty advocates who brought the suit cheered as hospital staff members across the state began their scramble to find a humane way to comply with the ruling while simultaneously complying with their personal and professional medical ethics codes, in addition to federal law. In the case of conflicting state and federal law, federal law governs.

According to federal law, under the Emergency Medicine Treatment and Labor Act, it is illegal for doctors to release patients into the general public if they are a clear danger to themselves or to the public. Yet being a clear danger to themselves or to the public is the case with the overwhelming majority of hospital emergency room psychiatric patients. Beds at both of our underfunded state psychiatric hospitals (Eastern and Western State) are extremely limited, and harried medical providers often feel pressured to release very ill patients in order to make room for incoming new patients who are even more severely ill: a tragic game of mental healthcare musical chairs. Taxpayer funded budgets are still limping along in the aftermath of the worst recession in living memory for most. Though the death of Robin Williams sparked an unprecedented national dialogue on the need to eradicate the stigma of seeking help for mental illness, the stigma remains painfully salient for those suffering from their invisible wounds.

This pervasive stigma, coupled with limited budgets, bedspace, and healthcare providers, currently make reformation of our current mental healthcare system to allow for compliance under the new ruling very tricky, if not impossible.

Though on its face, psychiatric boarding seems inhumane, the alternative (allowing severely mentally ill citizens who are a danger to themselves or others to fend for themselves in the streets) is even worse. Without an increase in state budgets or reallocation of resources for more innovative and cheaper methods of treatment (such as telepsychiatry), the fate of the state’s mentally ill will only get worse (as will the state’s expenditures for caring for them when they destabilize).

One in four American families suffers from a severe mental illness. The derivative negative toll on family members, caretakers, and healthcare systems of untreated or inadequately treated mental illnesses due to stigma and lack of resources makes access to adequate mental health care one of the most pressing and underfunded needs in our overall healthcare system. These Americans are your friends, your coworkers, and your family members. To love them would be to advocate for the expansion of the state budget to allow for exploration of alternative treatment plans and an increased overall mental healthcare budget as the deadline for compliance with the State Supreme Court’s ruling draws near.

Laura Umetsu is a disability rights advocacy attorney residing in Seattle, Washington. Ms. Umetsu is a 2008 graduate of the Michael G. Foster School of Business who focused on project management.

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Top 25 Tips to Write A Better Professional Email

Jasmine

By Jasmine Bager, Reporter

Business emails can be tricky. In just a few lines, you need to introduce yourself, communicate your professional needs and entice this powerful stranger to respond. Chances are, the person receiving your message already has a clogged inbox, and will read your email on a tiny device while rushing to a meeting or while sitting at a computer desk with multiple tabs open on the browser. How do you get these busy professionals to respond to your emails? If you are a college student applying for a fall internship or a recent graduate looking for a job—or just in need of some extra tips—these should help.

1. Unless you are Bill Gates, Angelina Jolie or some other celebrity, never start your business email with “My name is…” Your message should be interesting enough so that the recipient can identity who you are and what you want by the time your email signature appears. Lead with the most important thing. You can say that you are a designer, or an engineer or a specialist working at a certain company, but your specific name should only appear at the very end.

2. While it is fun to use puns and nicknames, save those for personal use. Try not to use random letters or obscure nicknames in your official email address. Accounts with the names: LoveToFish302 or HandsomeHunk53 are probably not good ones to use for professional emails. Use your first and last name in your address, if possible. A zero and the letter “o” can get mixed-up more often than you’d think, especially if the address was written down by hand. Remember that there is a 100 percent chance of not getting a response if the email was never received.

3. Your subject line is the first impression your reader will see. Make it clear and write your full name and course number/time so that the professor can easily identify you, or specify where you’ve met someone, by writing the name of the location or company. One way is to include the recipient’s first and last name in the subject line along with your own, so that they realize that this isn’t spam. Try to always include a word or two about what the email is about.

4. Titles are important, especially if it is a Dr., Professor or President, so be sure to address that person as such. If you are sending something to someone who speaks another language, you could start and end the email with hello and thank you in their native tongue—it will show thoughtfulness. You could also include respectful, cultural titles at the end of names, such as jan or san/sama, if appropriate.

 

5. Check the clock—and the timezone of the person you are emailing. Send your message an hour after the official business hours begin in that country. At that point, that person would have already cleared their inbox (which is usually done within minutes of reaching the office) and your email would be the first new thing waiting to be opened. You could compose the email hours in advance and save as a draft, then click send when it’s time.

 

6. Try to always use a reference—even if invented. For example, call the main number of a firm and ask the secretary for the president’s email address. Make sure to write down the secretary’s name (and google to make sure to spell the secretary’s name correctly). In your email to that president, write: “I spoke to Pat on the phone…” If you have a real reference, that’s even better. You should mention your reference (real or created) at the beginning of your email.

 

7. In the case of sending an email asking for a job, always send an email first with your resume attached and then follow-up with a call. That way, when you speak to HR, you could both scan your resume together on the spot. Also, this way, the department could easily look you up later, instead of asking each other “what was that person’s name who called this morning?” Another perk is that they could simply hit the reply button to schedule an interview (hopefully), instead of looking for the piece of paper in which they scribbled your address (especially if your address contains a zero or an “o” in it). The less work employers need to do to gain an employee, the better.

 

8. If you’ve met in person, signal a story or symbol from that time. A visual clue is often helpful, so reference a funny thing that happened or something you talked about. If you take a business card, always scribble something on the back to remind you of the conversation, and use it in the email.

 

9. Follow-up, but don’t be a pest. Depending on how urgent it is, contact them again after a few days or a week. If you don’t hear back for weeks, it might be time to either send a fresh email with a different subject line or reach for the phone.

 

10. Never make the email too long—there’s nothing more intimidating to a busy person than opening up an email to find a giant block of text. Try to break down the words into shorter paragraphs that contain three or four sentences each.

 

11. Research the person and personalize a sentence about their work or something interesting you found out based on your readings. While employers expect that you will copy/paste some of the same message to others, nobody likes an email that is completely generic. Show them that you took the time to craft an email based on your interest in that specific company.

 

12. If you are sending fan mail where you are simply stating your opinion or feeling, praising or criticizing something or someone, don’t expect a reply. If you do want a reply—say so. End with an action that you want of them. “Let me know if we can meet for coffee next week—would Wednesday work?” is an example.

 

13. It is tempting to include a company logo in your email signature, but remember that most smartphones and tablets identify them as attachments. This may confuse readers when they see the tiny paperclip icon next to the message and then don’t see anything attached once opened. A better way would be to just include your company name and job title in plain text and hyperlink to the main website.

 

14. Fancy or creative typefaces should remain in museums, greeting cards or limited to logos. Don’t use multiple colors and underline words or excessively highlight or bold/italicize words in the body of the email—they are often hard to read and look juvenile. Which brings us to…

 

15. …if you need to copy/paste text from, let’s say a Word document draft you started or a name from their website, make sure that you format all of the email so that the font size/colors match up. Consistency is key.

 

16. Limit the use of “I” in your emails. A sentence such as “I was wondering if you could let me know when I could schedule an appointment,” seem less confident than “When can we schedule an appointment?”

 

17. Try to eliminate hints of sarcasm. Some things are just better left said—and unread. In general, jokes are usually about the physical delivery and don’t always translate well to text—and they usually don’t translate at all in a business email context. Unless you are a professional comedian asking for a comedy gig and it is expected of you, try to never use phrases that could be misunderstood in an email—especially if you have never met that person before. You may never meet at all if the reader doesn’t get your sense of humor.

 

18. Limit exclamation points to one or two per email, and try to never write an email WITH ALL CAPS. It can appear to be over-emotional and perhaps even rude.

 

19. Don’t use “big words” or jargon just because you think it’ll make you seem smart. Use words that you already know—or read up on the industry terms to make sure that you fully understand what you are saying and that the sentence makes sense. Also, spell out all abbreviations and acronyms unless they are very common.

20. Disclaimers from company emails usually point out that the message was only intended for that person and is not to be forwarded to others. This is probably a good policy in general. Be careful when you forward the message from a recruiter to your mom, especially if you have an account which groups all same-subject-emails into one place. You could easily send the original sender the message in error. Try to start a new thread and copy/paste the email to your mom in another window entirely. Also, if you receive a message as part of a mailing list, let’s say from the head of HR announcing a job opening, be careful to not hit reply-all if you meant to just send it to the HR person—the whole group will then read your private message.

21. Just as you wouldn’t call a 1-800 number and tell the operator your whole story without first hearing a voice on the other end, your initial email should not just be a flood of words. Make sure that this is the correct email first and that this is the appropriate person to send this information to.

22. Similarly, never disclose sensitive or legal information without first receiving a reply from the person. This way, you’ll be sure that you are not sending sensitive material to a random person in error. Always triple-check that you are sending the email to the correct address if you have it saved in your contact list. If it is a common name in your address book, you may accidentally send it to the wrong person, which could cause embarrassment or delays.

 

23. Use full names when you mention people in the body of the email. Don’t just say, “Received your email address from Sam.” Sam who? Be clear. If you mention an article in your email, link to it.

 

24. Before signing your name, make sure to include more than one way to reach you. Provide a phone number, a hyperlink to your personal portfolio, company website or Twitter handle. If applicable, offer to contact them to follow-up within a week or as appropriate.

 

25. End on a sincere note. Make sure to include your last name in your signature! Your first name won’t do on its own—unless you are Beyonce or Prince.

While there are no guarantees of a response—even if you turn on the “read receipts” notification—there are ways to improve the chances of receiving one. Be sure to always read the full message to check for spelling and grammar before clicking the send button. Good luck!

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Walk at the Shops: How Middle Eastern Women are Walking their Way to Health

Jasmine

By Jasmine Bager, Reporter

Saudi women may not be able to get to the mall on their own, but they do not need any help once they get there. With their loose-fitting abayas flowing in the dusty wind, they form an impromptu human installation of silky black threads–as they fix their gaze into a sea of neon lights. They exit the crawling SUV, and their handbags swing as they lift their arms to wrap the veil around their heads again. The lone security guard at the entrance lowers his gaze in respect, as the women enter the automatic doors. While men dominate the roads, inside the mall, women rule.

But, perhaps surprisingly, instead of shopping, many women now go there to exercise. Much like the mall walker culture in the US, which started nearly 25-years-ago, Arab women are taking it in stride. To avoid the heat and spending the mornings idle at home, women are now using the mall as a way to get out of the house and workout.

Within the long, wide mall halls, Saudi women walk away their stresses and melt away the extra weight. Their trek involves a/c blasting, children shrieking in the nearby indoor playground, incense burning from stores, and colorful displays of the latest fashions at every step. Instead of being enclosed within a gym, she window shops, which is likely her favorite sport. With a cafe at every corner, she can catch up on her tweets and sip a drink, at any of the sofas in the Family Section (men who are unaccompanied by a female must go to the Singles Section, whether the man is single or not). Usually, she does this while her kids are at school and her husband is at work. It is her “me” time, until her friends bump into her and they feast on lunch at one of the dozen food options available at their fingertips. But their feet really do the walking, and at the end of a lap or two, they can arrange to be picked up. Now, retired men also join their daughters or wives. Some young people have started to join on the weekends, but their fancy shoes are often too troublesome to walk fast in. Many working moms and grandmothers push strollers in the weekend and use the time to spot the latest deals.

Exercising at the mall is not only social, it is practical. Every driver knows where the malls are, so ladies don’t need to show them a paper scribbled with a hand drawn map of an obscure location–where many female gyms seem to be. GPS maps on phones are often seen as confusing digital paintings, since roads often change and names are replaced. Malls are well-lit, safe and there is a mall relatively near every residential area. If one person drops you off, whoever picks you up can locate exactly where you are. Each mall entrance has a number (on the inside and outside) so females are able to call whoever is picking them up and say, “please come to Gate 1. How long will it take you–10 minutes? Miss call me when you are outside.” The girl would hover around the area until her phone vibrates. She won’t pick up the call, but will grab her things, go outside and stand with the other ladies looking for their drivers.

Obesity and diabetes are more than trends, these are lifestyle patterns.

The prevalence of overweight and obese adults in Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and other Gulf countries, ranges from 74% to 86% in women and 69% to 77% in men, according to the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean. People have a lot of free time and over-eat (which is the only acceptable social pastime). Many families depend heavily on expat helpers to move around town, and within their own homes. Sugary drinks, salty foods, greasy pans and low physical activity levels make for numerous health problems. With someone organizing their lives constantly, many women (and men) never know how many candy wrappers are in their trashcans. Walking kills the boredom. It helps strengthen the bones, muscles and helps the woman maintain a healthy weight. With access to ladies rooms and cafe tables to rest in, malls provide the best one-stop-fitness.

It’s no secret that caffeine and sugar addiction is common in Saudi, and the Arab World. Since it is too hot to be active during the day, almost all socializing happens after sunset. To stay awake, the average family consumes multiple cups of strong coffee and several pots of sweetened tea per night. Socially, people meet at cafes and sip on caffeine while they wait for stores to open at the mall (the female section remains open during prayer time). Energy drinks (mostly Red Bull) fly off the shelves during exam times. The majority of schools and offices require children and adults to be either awake or at the office/school by 7:00 am. That means that people wake up very early and usually try to push themselves to stay awake for social activities in the early evening and at night. Not everyone chooses to or has the time to nap (especially if a female doesn’t have a ride, she will play with her phone at a cafe and drink coffee while she waits for her friends to drop her home). Cigarettes, fast food restaurants (and sodas) and corner candy shops are also very common. In other words, it is quite easy to get fat if you are sleep-deprived, well-caffeinated and your social options are mostly limited to sitting, eating and laughing.

Obesity has plagued much of the Gulf region for some time—and not just in Saudi Arabia. In Dubai, possibly the most well-known and popular destination in the world, came up with an incentive worth its weight. The Dubai municipality literally asked its residents to trade weight for gold. The result? The first ever “Your Weight in Gold” campaign. For six weeks, 10,000 residents of Dubai volunteered to be weighed in tents and used a combination of diet and exercise to become healthier. In the heat of the summer, and during the Holy Month of Ramadan, it offered gold coins as a reward for losing body fat. At the end of the trial, only 3,224 residents were able to use their improved health to generate wealth.

The winner of this championship, Dubai resident Ahmed Ebrahim Al Shaikh, an architect from Syria, lost 26.3 kg (57.9 lbs) from his body weight during the campaign. He received 63 gram of gold as a reward. It was quite a popular initiative.

So far, the walking culture is pretty informal in Saudi malls. There are little informational stands at these malls, however, where volunteer nurses talk about the dangers of diabetes and obesity to women who pass by. There are even small diet centers located within the mall, where a nutritionist can help set women up with a healthy meal plan. For a flat rate, healthy meals can be delivered to your office or home door (remember, transportation is an issue, so it’s very convenient), or you could just purchase a single meal and eat it right there at the mall. Some bachelors order these meal plans just so that they avoid cooking, but found that their health improved. Traditional Gulf cuisine mostly consists of flavored rice, bread and meat, in various forms. Dates, coffee, tea and pastries drenched in honey are daily snacks. Their food habits aren’t very healthy. It used to be okay to eat that way when they lived as nomads in tents, because they used to constantly move and hunt. Now, they just hunt for their phones to call for pizza home delivery.

After moving cautiously near the silver SUV, the Saudi woman realizes that isn’t her family’s vehicle. Good–she avoided embarrassment. As she reaches for her phone to call her driver again, she finds him honking gently at the entrance, behind a taxicab. She walks in long, elegant strides through the maze of cars, with her shiny tennis shoes leading the way. When she shuts her car door and takes out her phone, she can sit back and relax. Her workout is over.

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Special Creative Writing Edition

Greetings, readers!

Last month was National Poetry Month. In honor of National  Poetry Month, I asked readers and their friends to submit samples of creative writing.

In the coming months, I will be encouraging readers to submit their original works, and I will be featuring one or two a month.

Keep writing, everyone.

Laura Umetsu

Editor in Chief

Civilian Global News

 

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“Knights” and “Intoxicating Melody” by Michelle Zimmerman

Knights

when rain pours on tin

and beats a melody of

a heart

.

Problems that need solutions

that need answers that need

more time

but time

slips

as hearts bleed and tears fall

and there’s no magic potion

to glue together what is torn

between

the solution

the reality

the heart

the eyes that look up glassy

.

Every behavior comes from

.

If you want to feel the weight of the world

be a teacher

and listen to the kids

and hold them

when they cry

see under the

behavior and

feel completely helpless at identifying a

solution that

has nothing to do with rote memory but

has everything to do with memory and

emotion that is real and pain and fear

.

It’s not for the faint of heart, to really

care deeply and want to offer strength

and the best of your life for someone

who’s worth it.

And not just one someone.

A lot of someones.

And drawing on every amount of

life in you to figure out how to protect

hearts, and not just teach.

Because to teach without really looking

is to miss the most important part of

who they are.

.

Looking, really looking, is hard.

Looking, leaves no option other

than action and doing something.

And that something, is most often

knowing that there’s going to be a

major sacrifice.

.

But there are those nights.

The ones that feel like all

strength is gone and the image of some

long forgotten fairy tale

makes a sigh escape

lips that are too

weary to speak.

.

Those knights.

Those images.

That metal on

an arm wrap

in front keep

heart shield

.

Oh. The words

incoherent but

known beyond

The image of

being sheltered

and surrounded

by protection

.

Even if there was a mythical knight…

who shields the knights when the stars

are dark and their strength is gone

and their arms are tired of the shield

the weight from being outstretched?

.

Who will lift their arms and let them rest?

.

The fragility of strength

the strength that must

be internal and standing

.

And, that my love may

appear plain and free

.

He heard my voice;

he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me,

I will call on him as long as I live.

Be at rest once more, O my soul,

for the Lord has been good to you.

.

My strength. My song. My shield.

Intoxicating Melody

Memories buried

treasure

each moment

a grain of sand

passes through fingers

that lingered

on a face

Gone overboard

shipwrecked lost love

poured from lips

burgundy

intoxicating melody

surviving tempest

bottled in

sealed

that night we promised

forever

hope floated over the

chilled glass

and was carried in strong

arms to lay on warm sand

discovered

and wondered

about the story it could tell

that night

A whisper sealed

the seal removed

remains

if each grain enveloped

could speak of a reason

for love,

the shore would be covered

the chilled glass turbulent

carries those reasons back

refined and smoothed

to embrace the memory again

To see and remember

kissed with warm sunshine

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