Brooke Gazdag: Inclusion, Innovation, Impact

KLU’s new Academic Director of Executive Education at KLU, Professor Brooke Gazdag, is a richly experienced and innovative educator whose teaching interests center around topics reflecting the various challenges and opportunities in the world of work: leadership, negotiations, and diversity and inclusion. Also recently appointed Assistant Professor of Management at KLU, Gazdag explains motivations for teaching, her philosophy and methods, and why the university is the right choice for logistics professionals looking to advance their careers.

Can you tell us something about your background, and how you got into academia and teaching?

Brooke Gazdag: I’m originally from Western New York, and did my PhD in Organizational Behavior and Management at the State University of New York at Buffalo. 12 years ago, I moved to Munich to take up a postdoc position at the Technical University of Munich as part of a project on the “Selection and Evaluation of Leaders in Academia and Industry”. I then worked at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in the Munich School of Business, before becoming an assistant professor at the Amsterdam Business School of the University of Amsterdam. I started my roles at KLU in December last year.

I got into academia because there's a lot of your own job crafting in the academic world. You have a lot of control over your career and, if you’re open to it, can try out different things along the way.

This is especially true of Europe. In the States, for example, academic institutions focus more on research output, but here there's curiosity about what real problems are and what the academic approach could do to address them. I started giving workshops and connecting with industry one-and-a-half years after coming to Germany, which I don't think I would have done had I been in the US.

How would you describe your approach to teaching and training, and what motivates you to do it?

Brooke Gazdag: I like to think of myself as both a curator of knowledge and an advocate for better ways of working. As such, I try to integrate various insights and perspectives in my teaching and training to create dynamic and engaging learning experiences. I utilize different approaches to achieve this, such as online learning seminars and blended learning, and a mix of my own videos and podcasts, interactive exercises, and small group training on topics like values-based leadership, resilience, diversity and inclusion, networking, and intercultural communication. The working world is rapidly digitizing, which is something I’ve embraced. I’ve adapted my own leadership and training accordingly, and I’m trying to help others to do the same.

I also try to facilitate discussions that are self-relevant and people have moments of reflection where they say, ‘Maybe I can think about myself a bit differently in this situation,’ or, ‘Maybe, I can look at what leadership means for me personally,’ instead of challenging stereotypes we might have about leadership, or say, negotiations. My goal is really to help people carve their own identities at work.

Together with the Alumni relations team you organized the first MBA reunion event on 15. June. For the MBA reunion you centered the event around the topic of personal adaptability. Can you give us a short synopsis of the topic and the day?

Brooke Gazdag: Since our alumni are interested in lifelong learning and continuously looking to improve their leadership, we focused on how to develop Personal Adaptability through learning. We explored the “5 C’s of Learning” – Curiosity, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking. With creativity, we talked about the power of mind-wandering and daydreaming – I even encouraged it during my short lecture! For collaboration, we discussed psychological safety and inclusive leadership as central to unleashing the potential in diverse teams. Curiosity, communication, and critical thinking all required asking the right questions such as “Is there a better way to do this?” “Is the message sent, the message received?” and “Am I possibly wrong?” Each of these questions encourages sincere reflection – a central skill of any leader in today’s working world.

How do you balance your twin roles at the university?

Brooke Gazdag: Right now, I would say a lot of my energy is going towards the academic director position. The Director of Executive Education, Jan Ehlers, also started on the same day as me, so Executive Education is getting a huge facelift right now. I find myself really investing a lot of time in not only our vision and mission, but also looking at what kind of programs do we want to deliver. For example, I immediately recognized KLU needs a program addressing diversity and inclusion given the tendency for the logistics and supply chain industries to be both male-dominated and often internationally oriented – both aspects speak to being able to navigate a work environment with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and ideas. In November, we will launch our Fast Forward Together program focusing on inclusive leadership, which will get the conversation going on these topics. This program allows me to bring together all sides of my professional identity – the inclusion researcher, the innovative lecturer, and the impact-oriented academic director.

KLU’s Executive Education portfolio includes a part-time MBA in Leadership and Supply Chain Management program, a master’s program in Sustainable Management and Operations (SuMO), as well as certificate programs and online sessions on current logistics and supply chain management topics. Why should someone looking to advance their career choose to study at KLU?

Brooke Gazdag: The industry-relevant Executive Education portfolio is what makes KLU stand apart. Plus, you'll learn from expert faculty and benefit from flexible learning options that fit your schedule. In addition, with a strong focus on sustainability and a global network of professionals, KLU equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the logistics and supply chain management field. For companies and individuals, we also offer customized and open programs on topics that are increasingly relevant for navigating the changing work environment such as carbon accounting (open program October 14-15, 2024) and inclusive leadership (open program launching in November). With these offerings, KLU becomes a “one-stop-shop” for further education on environmental and social sustainability.