ESP Strands in a Business Case Study Program

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

A few months ago, I was invited to create and participate (with my Japanese colleagues) in an intensive English program (IEP) for undergraduate students from Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS, my university in Japan) and from a university in South Korea. In order to meet this challenge, I needed to draw on a business internship program that I had created in the KUIS Career Education Center many years earlier.


Kevin’s Company, which was first described in an article for The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies (Knight, 2008), is the name of a simulated company in which KUIS students take leadership roles as business consultants as part of a business internship program. As business consultants, the students analyze the business and marketing operations of British Hills (BH). (BH is affiliated with KUIS as a member of the Kanda Gaigo Group.) The students then present their recommendations for improving BH operations to BH managers. The business internship gives the participating students a leadership experience in which they have the opportunity to create a shared vision of the future of BH.

My Personal Conceptualization of Leadership

In an earlier TESOL Blog post (2013), I wrote about my personal conceptualization of leadership.

As a researcher of professional communication, I recognize that many different conceptualizations of leadership exist. For me personally, however, I like to view leadership as a communication process consisting of two parts: 1) communicating to create a vision and 2) communicating to achieve a vision. Leadership is considered by many to be an “influence relationship,” and in my personal conceptualization of leadership, leadership would involve influencing others through communication associated with the goals of part 1 and part 2.

In view of this conceptualization, I came to see leadership in the presentations delivered by my KUIS students to the BH managers: The presentations were focused on creating a shared vision of the future of BH and aimed at obtaining the buy-in (or support) of the BH managers for that vision.

The Inaugural Global Challenge Program

On my website, The Leadership Connection Project, I describe the inaugural Global Challenge Program as follows:

In the first Global Challenge business training and leadership development program at KUIS, students from KUIS in Japan and SolBridge in South Korea worked in teams to act as international consultants and provide solutions (and leadership visions) to business challenges provided by the Japanese organization YAMASU.

The company YAMASU in the Global Challenge Program filled the same role (in my mind) as that of British Hills in the Kevin’s Company business internship program.


The connection between the Kevin’s Company business internship program and the Global Challenge program was not immediately apparent to me. What was clear in my mind was the need to prepare my students to communicate effectively in English when they conducted research at YAMASU and delivered presentations to YAMASU administrators. In this connection, I was practicing ESP in that I was training my students to meet their immediate communication needs in their roles as consultants for YAMASU.

In addition to the communication training, I needed to provide students with some background content to begin their research. For this research purpose, I created a website with some guiding questions and links to various sources of information.

Reflecting on the program development now brings to my mind a blog post (2014) in which I had written about “taking risks as a sign of expertise.” In that blog post, I argue that creativity and taking risk overlap. In the Global Challenge program, it seems to me that I was trying to provide the best experience for the students. I recognized that the students had the ability and desire to act as consultants, so my job was to help them to do their jobs as leaders. Their final presentations delivered to YAMASU administrators and Japanese government officials were outstanding. Giving the students room to succeed on their own was a risk, but it was also the best choice.

All the best,



Knight, K. (2008). Global workforce development through business internship program: Kevin’s company at Kanda University of International Studies. The Journal of Kanda University of International Studies, 20, 207-234.

About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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