Fulbright Scholar Bringing Case Study Approach to Italy

UAlbany School of Business Associate Professor Na Dai portrait - a woman wears glasses and a blue jacket.
School of Business Associate Professor Na Dai has been named a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar. (Photo by Carlo de Jesus)

By Michael Parker

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 19, 2022) — For School of Business Associate Professor of Finance Na Dai, bringing real-world cases into the classroom is a critical component to her students’ learning process.

Dai, recently selected by the U.S. Department of State as a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, will be taking her expertise in corporate finance, entrepreneurship and innovation to the University of Naples in Italy during the 2022-23 academic year.

She will be teaching both undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Management and Quantitative Studies on such topics as finance, private equity and venture capital, with a special focus on incorporating the case-study model into the classroom.

Dai finds that it’s very rewarding and beneficial to students when using cases in the classroom.

“First, cases represent real-world problem. This problem-solving approach makes learning more relevant and interesting,” said Dai. “Second, cases require students to apply what they have learned to solve a complicated problem. They have to integrate multiple knowledge points and tools in the analysis. It requires very high level of comprehending and mastering of the material. Third, cases facilitate student participation and discussion. They work with each other and learn from each other.”

To be a better case teacher, Dai recently attended the Harvard Case Teaching Workshop in 2019. She found the training helpful, providing a guide for how to best adapt the case method for a variety of students. Dai is taking these lessons with her as she heads overseas.

“I plan on including several cases that are based on the business and financial market of Italy to make the learning more relevant,” said Dai.

Dai believes this will also help her to better understand the unique aspects of Italy’s business and financial sectors.

As she engages with the more advanced students in Naples, she looks forward to helping PhD students to start their own research projects and to continuing to mentor the students after her Fulbright tenure is over.

In addition to teaching, Dai will be actively working on a research project designed to examine how other nations dealt with the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Dai and others have looked at the impact of the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), created in March 2020 to reverse employment declines that exceeded 18 percent among small businesses, there is much less research analyzing the effectiveness of government support programs in the other parts of the world.

Dai’s project, which she will be working on in the spring of 2023 with colleagues at the University of Naples, is called “Information Frictions and Access to Government Guaranteed Loans: Evidence from Italian SMEs During the Pandemic.”

“The goal of this study to investigate the frictions and effectiveness associated with government policies designed to support small businesses in response to COVID-19 in Italy,” said Dai. “Italy was the first economy in Europe to be seriously affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and one of the most stressed since then. Moreover, the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises is higher in Italy than other EU countries. They generate 67 percent of overall value added in Italy’s national non-financial business economy, exceeding the EU average of 56 percent.”

Dai’s hope is that such a study will have important policy implications for designing a financial system that facilitates small businesses’ access to liquidity in general and improving the efficiency of government responses to crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.