Graduate Goes Global
International Opportunities Open for Graduates
By Dr. Richard Ellis
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
“Global Education” is more than a catchphrase for John Brown University graduate students in business and counseling. Prior to 2004, JBU’s international opportunities were limited to undergraduate students. In that year we offered our first international graduate course by taking a group of MBA and MSLE students to Belfast with Bill Stevenson. Since that time, the graduate international offerings have expanded programmatically to include graduate counseling and geographically to include Central America. Plans are underway currently for a graduate business trip to the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, China, in summer 2010.
The international trip is now either a requirement or option for most graduate business students at John Brown University. In 2009, we had 35 – 40 graduate business students in Northern Ireland and Guatemala. The classes begin stateside with two “rampup sessions” with readings and assignments led by faculty who are personally involved in work outside of the States; their personal passion is contagious.
In the case of Northern Ireland, the course is taught by JBU Director of International Programs and Belfast native Bill Stevenson. The Guatemala study was directed by economics professor Dr. Doyle Butts and graduate business director Dr. Joe Walenciak. Dr. Walenciak has extensive experience with the people and culture of Guatemala.
‘Fill up the trip with people and powerful experiences’
In a presentation to the annual meeting of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA) about our international graduate business travel opportunities, Dr. Walenciak told business faculty from across the country that the key to success in an international program is to fill the trip with people and powerful experiences. The courses utilize the educational concept of “place as text,” meaning that they are not just sitting in a class or a tour bus learning about the country and culture, the students experience and interact with the culture at multiple levels.
In the case of Guatemala, the journey began with a dinner at a resort by Lake Atitlan, continued with a day in an indigenous village, a day with Walmart Centroamerica leadership, a tour of the stock market, and a closed-door meeting with the vice president of Guatemala, Dr. Rafael Espada. The students also saw the poverty of Guatemala by meeting gang leaders and residents of the city’s garbage dump.
People, places and experiences filled the Northern Ireland course as well. Before launching out across the sea, Bill Stevenson told the students, “We will look at the culture, traditions, history, economies, politics, food, language, of Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and also the greater European environment.”
Building on Bill’s multiple contacts in his hometown, students visited the Learjet production facilities of Bombardier Aerospace Ltd. and the Northern Irish-owned Delta Packaging, whose customer base reaches across Europe and Asia-Pacific. Students met members of the Northern Ireland Parliament and Queens University. The history of conflict in Belfast was presented through personal histories and historical venues.
China and the Pacific Rim
One of the biggest players on the international business scene is China and the emerging economies of the Pacific Rim. New for 2010 is a graduate business trip to China. The Graduate China Studies Program will provide a Graduate Goes Global 10-day intensive visit to China, including several cities, tours to retailing and manufacturing facilities, and intercultural immersion. Business-related elements of this experience will be developed using JBU’s strong corporate connections with Walmart and Procter & Gamble. Day trips to rural areas will give the group a stronger understanding of more traditional Chinese culture. Leading this trip will be Tom Verdery, a new member of the graduate business faculty and executive in residence at the Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics. Tom joined JBU this year following a career at Procter & Gamble that included more than three million miles of travel. Tom knows international business from the inside, and his contacts with key individuals and companies in Shanghai and Beijing will make this trip unforgettable for those students willing to make the long flight across the Pacific next summer.
On two occasions over the past few years, the graduate counseling department has offered students the opportunity to travel for Belfast as part of the social and cultural foundations course. This fall, Graduate Counseling Program Director Dr. John Carmack visited Guatemala with Dr. Walenciak to explore opportunities for counseling students in Central America. The result is a refocusing of the international experience for counseling students toward developing areas.
Utilizing networks of agencies and people with connections to JBU, the counseling students will be introduced to social and ministry services that are attempting to alleviate individual suffering in hardship situations.
Students will meet leaders of indigenous and international aid efforts as well as the people they serve. We expect this to be a life-changing event in the lives of these students making them better counselors in the future.
Developing Global Perspectives
One of the roles of graduate education is the development of leaders. Today, leaders must have a global perspective because the world is more interconnected and interdependent than ever. It is uncommon for graduate programs that are designed to accommodate adult commuter students to offer this level of in-depth international involvement.
How can we do it? Only because of the key people at JBU who have a passion for teaching and a passion for specific areas of the world. We offer a unique experience — that is only just beginning.
Dr. Richard Ellis is dean of graduate studies.