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Sep 14, 2021 Business Administration Faculty Research in Education

Should I stay or should I go? How multinational firms respond to socio-political violence.

When the tide began turning against the apartheid regime in South Africa in the late 1980s, pressure started being applied not just to the government, but also to the multinational corporations (MNC) that did business with them. In the middle were many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who believed that these companies were responsible for supporting repressive regimes. Royal Dutch Shell was one of the companies that stayed — despite mounting pressure from 14 different companies. And as a student of international business, Ishva Minefee wanted to know why.

Minefee is fascinated by companies with vast global operations. “I'm particularly interested in the broader question of how firms respond to socio-political violence when they operate internationally,” said Minefee, who recently joined Gies as an assistant professor of business administration. To answer that question, he decided to do a historical survey of Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to swim so hard against a changing global current.

By combining archival-based historical research and visual rhetorical analysis he discovered that the company developed a strategy consisting of creating counter-narratives at three different levels for actors within the company, all of whom had their own particular interests. First, there was the company’s main headquarters, which thought bowing to outside pressure would set a bad precedent for future boycotts. Second, there were the company’s peripheral subsidiaries who were doing their best not to be tarnished by events in South Africa. And finally, there was the local subsidiary itself that was fighting for its survival. In the end Minefee’s work helped provide a model to analyze MNC responses to global NGO activism while exploring the implications of their political activities, their role in the struggle for human rights, and strategies for corporate social responsibility.

Minefee’s passion is never far from the surface, whether he’s discussing the impact of Black Lives Matter on modern corporations or the spark he hopes to ignite in his students. Minefee, who is teaching BADM 380 — International Business, says he’s not interested in merely teaching students facts. “I want to continue advancing their growth as global citizens — individuals who are knowledgeable and aware of what’s going on in the world, and individuals who have a global mindset,” said Minefee, adding that, if nothing else, he hopes his students leave his class with a desire to learn more.

Originally from Chicago, Minefee discovered his passion for international business during his own college career at Gies just a few short years ago. As an undecided major, an advisor asked him to discuss the things he liked. “I said I was interested in learning about different cultures, so she encouraged me to study abroad,” explained Minefee. “I went to Brazil the winter break of my freshman year.” And that was it for Minefee. From that point on, he knew what he wanted to do.

In 2017, he earned a PhD in business administration at Gies and accepted a position as assistant professor of management at the Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University. And while he enjoyed his experience there, Minefee said there was no hesitation when the offer came to return to the place where he had spent so many happy years.

Minefee immediately said yes for a long list of reasons, starting with the size and strength of the faculty at Gies. “There are some great qualitative researchers in the department — and even at the university level there is a new qualitative research initiative,” explained Minefee. “Just seeing the excitement behind that made me say, ‘I can jump in and be a part of this!’”

He also liked the fact that the College is close to Chicago, not just because he has family there, but also because there’s a rich pool of multinational corporations he can draw on to further his research and provide guest lectures for his class.

Most of all, however, Minefee said he’s excited to rejoin a school with such a strong focus on quality. During his orientation, Minefee said he heard one word over and over again, both at the College and University level, and that word was “excellence.” It’s a message that resonated with Minefee, who is part of the Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and International Business (SEIB) area at Gies. “I want to bring excellence to the College,” said Minefee. “And I can do that by my teaching, my research, and my service in the profession.”