June 3, 2019

X-Culture: A global movement for international business education

High-impact student learning opportunity created by Haskayne alum Vasyl Taras comes to Calgary this July
A group of X-Culture participants gets together for a group photo at a recent Global Symposium. Photo courtesy X-Culture
A group of X-Culture participants gets together for a group photo at a recent Global Symposium. Phot

You wouldn’t teach someone to swim on a football field, so why restrict international business education to the four walls of a classroom?

That’s the analogy Dr. Vasyl Taras, PhD’08, Haskayne alum and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, uses to explain the concept behind X-Culture. Each semester, the non-profit organization impacts 5,000 students from 167 universities in 40 countries across all six continents.

X-Culture participants work in virtual teams across time zones, language barriers, cultural differences and varying business environments, oftentimes never seeing each other face to face. They solve real-life problems presented by real-life companies. This can lead to challenges for the students, but is also a valuable source of high-impact learning. 

Bringing the program to life in Calgary

In 2019, X-Culture celebrates its 10th  anniversary and is coming to Calgary in July for its X-Culture Global Business Week. Through a competitive selection process, the symposium brings together teams from all over the world to one location for a week of learning. While in Calgary, students will have the opportunity address local business problems, learn about our key economic drivers, explore our city and country’s culture, get to know their peers and spend time working on their professional development.

When instructor Leighton Wilks, MBA’07, joined Haskayne in 2011, he knew he wanted to develop a course on cross-cultural management, and X-Culture was the perfect fit. He currently incorporates it into his Cross-Cultural Management class (SGMA 409).

“The program offers an unparalleled learning experience that has impacted about 100 Haskayne students so far,” says Wilks. “X-Culture is a volunteer organization run by amazing people. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with this group of international scholars.”

Haskayne instructor Leighton Wilks, far right, poses with Haskayne BComm students at last year's X-Culture Global Symposium in Miami, Fla.

Leighton Wilks, far right, poses with BComm students at last year's X-Culture Global Symposium.

Leighton Wilks

The Haskayne alumni connection

After completing his doctoral studies at the Haskayne School of Business, with a focus on international human resource management and organizational dynamics, Taras’s career took him to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he currently teaches international business to undergraduate and graduate students.

Faced with the challenge of teaching global topics at a local university, Taras reached out to his network at the Academy of International Business for help and was blown away by the response. Within a few hours, Taras received thousands of responses from peers who were facing the same issue: How can we give business students hands-on international experience that prepares them for life after university?

“International business is a growing concentration of choice for students,” says Taras. “It has become an integral part of every other discipline in business. International experience is mandatory for business graduates now.”

Opportunity for research is growing

The successful program is expanding rapidly, with plans create a youth category, grow the mentorship program and increase the research component of the project.

X-Culture not only provides value for students, but it offers an incredible opportunity for researchers as well. Due to the nature of the program, academics have unprecedented access to team data that is consistent, virtual, global, the same size (students are placed in groups of six) and reoccurring. 

“Studying virtual teams is very difficult, but there have been six dissertations written from X-Culture data,” explains Taras. “It’s crowdsourcing. Having access to thousands of virtual groups per year could change the future of business consulting.”

Get involved

“I’m a lifelong Calgarian and I can’t wait to showcase what we’re all about,” says Wilks. “My goal is to have the participants go back to their home countries and promote Calgary and the great things we are doing.”

Haskayne will welcome members and students from all around the world to UCalgary and we’re looking for community support. Interested in getting involved? Contact Haskayne instructor Leighton Wilks at lrwilks@ucalgary.ca.


Vasyl Taras is a Haskayne alum and currently an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Taras is a Haskayne alum and currently an associate professor at the University of North Carolina.

Vasyl Taras