Study Abroad: Volume 13


Table of contents

(17 chapters)

This special volume of Advances in International Marketingis guest-edited by Professors G. Tomas M. Hult and Elvin C. Lashbrooke, Jr. of Michigan State University. The entire volume addresses a variety of topics relating to study abroad programs in business schools. This volume grew out of the Third Roundtable on Internationalizing Business Education hosted by the Center for International Business Education and Research at Michigan State University (MSU-CIBER). Serving as co-sponsors for this event were CIBERs at Duke University, Purdue University, San Diego State University, Texas A&M University, University of Memphis, University of Connecticut, University of Kansas, University of Illinois, University of Pittsburgh, University of South Carolina, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Wisconsin. The contributions selected for this volume represent some of the best thinking and empirical findings on business-focused study abroad concepts.

The International Education and Graduate Programs Office of the U.S. Department of Education (IEGPS) is pleased to bring you this publication produced from the Roundtable on Study Abroad Programs in Business Schools that took place in East Lansing, Michigan, September 2001. This publication reports on the results of a three-day, invitational conference of national and international experts on study abroad. The conference was hosted by the Center for International Business Education and Research in The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State University (MSU-CIBER), which is funded under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

With the advent of the global economy and marketplace, cultural sensitivity and language proficiency have assumed new, higher levels of importance in business education. Consequently, business schools need to acclimate both faculty and students to the global environment. Study abroad is an effective way to accomplish internationalization of faculty and students; however, there are many challenges relating to study abroad that need to be resolved. The underlying rationale for study abroad is evolving, as are the anticipated outcomes for students studying abroad. Moreover, there is no single source of information about study abroad and best practices relating to study abroad. Formal assessment of study abroad programs is rarely undertaken in the belief that the value of study abroad is self-evident; therefore, assessment is not critical. Consequently, study abroad is a topic on which much more research is needed. There are great opportunities for scholars and practitioners in the field of study abroad to do research in the different aspects of study abroad and disseminate and publish the results. The educational opportunities are virtually unlimited, as the importance of study abroad as a response to training business and other students to be able to function effectively in the global economy increases.

The purpose of this paper is to describe the study abroad impact assessment project that has been undertaken during the past year by Michigan State University and to present some preliminary (and tentative) conclusions. It should be emphasized that this is a progress report, vulnerable to the uncertainties that time will remove as the project matures.

Over the past fifteen years, U.S. study abroad enrollments have increased by 160%, with nearly 130,000 students earning credit abroad during the 1998–1999 academic year. The growth has been especially striking during the past five reporting years, as the number of participants has swelled by an astonishing 70% (Davis, 2000, p. 16). During the past fifteen years or so, our discussions about study abroad have come more and more to be dominated by this sort of self-congratulatory number-crunching: we’ve come to regard each successive annual increase in participation as a worthy achievement in itself, and much of what we do, and much about what we report to each other, focuses on our challenges and successes in pursuing this goal at our individual institutions, and on the national level. Thus, we identify the obstacles that stand in the way of greater student participation; we report about our institutional successes in administratively overcoming those obstacles; we commit ourselves to increasing the participation of African-American, Hispanic, disabled, natural science, business, math, engineering, and other “non-traditional” students; and we relish the gains we make in encouraging more of our students to study in “non-traditional” destinations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and elsewhere.

Throughout the early 1980s, schools of business struggled with ways to internationalize their faculty, students and curriculum. In the face of an increasingly global economy, it was necessary for schools to meet this challenge. Various strategies were employed: infusion of global topics into the classes, creation of International Business departments, the implementation of the CIBER program (Center for International Business Education and Research) and faculty exchanges. Although the Kelley School of Business tried all of these, our most successful efforts to internationalize students has been by facilitating overseas experiences through organized study abroad programs.

Why is there a need for initiatives such as the one which will be described in the following pages, designed to increase the participation of minority and low income students in study abroad?

The U.S. faces unprecedented challenges to its economic, political, and military pre-eminence as it proceeds into the initial years of the 21st century. During the Cold War era, the superpowers viewed countries as either enemies or friends. The era of globalization, however, has transformed friends and enemies alike into competitors (Friedman, 2000). The U.S., the chess master of the Cold War era, has encountered great difficulty in adapting to the new geo-political and socio-economic realities brought about by the era of globalization. As this new era celebrated its coming out party in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. has witnessed its own economic decline. In 1945, the U.S. accounted for over 70% of the World’s GDP. Today, that figure has shrunk to 19% (cited in Kedia, 2001).

The object of this brief paper is to discuss the balance between business content and language proficiency in study abroad programs related to business. When blending these three activities, the challenge is to balance each appropriately. If the study abroad experience contains little or no business content, students lose out on the opportunity to learn elements of international business. If the study abroad experience contains little or no language content, students miss out on the cultural integration that is essential for international interactions. And if “study abroad” becomes too loose (i.e. party on the beach) or too rigid (i.e. no different than taking classes back home), students miss the essence of studying in a foreign location. Of course, there are excellent business study abroad programs that are conducted in English (e.g. see Keillor & Emore for the roundtable discussion regarding English language programs). The focus of this paper is the role of foreign language instruction and student proficiency in foreign language, as it relates to business study abroad programs.

From a traditional institutional perspective, the ultimate customer of the university is the student and perhaps his/her parents. From the perspective of a business school, however, the ultimate customer is the employer. Thus, a school’s goal, in particular a CIBER school, should be to develop and provide international programs that deliver expertise and experience to meet the needs of firms, not students. The students are the products, and the study abroad program is the means by which this product is developed and improved. Faculty are key players in the development and quality control of the student product.

Recruiting students to study abroad is a difficult challenge for American colleges and universities. Study abroad advisors and directors of international programs are searching for better ways of marketing the overseas academic experience. Approximately 3% of U.S. students who pursue a bachelor’s degree study abroad at some point in their college career. In any given year, less than 1% (0.8%) of U.S. students take part in study abroad (Hayward, 2000, p. 9). American higher education falls far short of the Presidential Commission’s target of 10% by 2000 set in 1979 (Strength Through Wisdom, 1979). The typical college student who participates in study abroad is an undergraduate liberal arts major who spends one semester in a country in Western Europe. In 1999–2000, 63% of American students studying abroad were in Europe (Snapshot of Report on Study Abroad Programs, 2000, p. 1). Almost one fourth go to one country – Great Britain. Fifteen percent of study abroad students travel to Latin America, 6% to Asia and 3% to Africa (Hayward, 2000, p. 10). The small number of U.S. students (129,770) who experienced foreign study in 1998–1999 compares unfavorably with the much larger number of foreign students (490,933) who enrolled in U.S. institutions (Hesel & Green, 2000, p. 5). Even more disheartening is the fact that nearly 50% of students entering 4-year colleges say that they want to study abroad and that three out of four adults agree that students should study abroad (Hesel & Green, 2000, p. 1). When asked to choose which activity in college is most important to them, entering freshmen rank study abroad second only to internships (Hesel & Green, 2000, p. 3). There are obviously a number of barriers to student participation in foreign study.

Certain administrative structures and processes need to be in place on the home campus to provide high quality study abroad experiences for students. They provide the support needed to make study abroad programs successful and effective. To this end, they need to be based on criteria that ensure the best possible quality in these arrangements as they relate to stated program outcomes.

The adage, “Think globally but act locally,” defines success for study abroad. As we examine this from the broad university perspective, this means placing educational and research activities in an international rather than a national or local dimension. To accomplish these objectives requires special handling of many of the institutional policies and procedures. Presidential priorities, institutional mission, and strategic plans must encourage collaboration within the campus community, the state and around the globe. These are some of the conditions necessary for the development of international opportunities. Other papers presented during this “International Roundtable on Study Abroad Programs in Schools of Business” address special issues that concern specific study abroad developments. They will address administrative arrangements from the program perspective. In this section, we will discuss the administrative matters from the institutional side which create the environment that allows faculty to develop study abroad programs for their students.

Offering study abroad and exchange programs in partnership with Schools of Business around the world is a cost-effective way of providing a meaningful international academic opportunity for students. They also help lay the foundation for wider collaborations on other dimensions, such as faculty exchanges, with partner institutions. However, structuring and administering these programs requires a clear guiding vision of the overall objectives of the program as well as a firm grasp of the administrative details involved. In this paper, we describe some of the key ingredients involved in choosing partners and structuring successful international education partnerships.

During the past decade there has been a growing consensus that study abroad experiences are valuable not only for students majoring in the language of the country in which they intend to study, but that they also provide vital experiences for students enrolled in business programs. This is a change from the early 1980s when it was rare to find a business program offering study abroad experiences for its students. The increasingly global nature of commerce and the need for business professionals to effectively interact with people in a work force growing more diverse are strong arguments for students to study abroad. In addition to exposing students to different cultures and peoples, the study abroad experience challenges students to function in unknown environments and situations, teaches students about themselves, and forces them to look critically at their own resources and values. It is the ultimate “Problem-Based Learning” experience (PBL).

The continuing globalization of business and recent world events underscore the importance of educating students to develop a broad world view. Internationalizing the undergraduate curriculum has moved to the forefront of higher education in business. And international travel and study has become a core part in the curriculum. However, creating and coordinating a meaningful study abroad experience is perhaps the most challenging issue faced by academics and administrators involved in international business education. While the concept of incorporating a practical or “real world” component into a university degree program is not unique, particularly in business education, the structural obstacles and other difficulties associated with bringing about truly international learning experiences tend to be very different. On the one hand, the student(s) involved generally are highly motivated for such an experience. The challenge on the student side is one of channeling this excitement through the proper process in order to ensure they receive maximum transfer credit. This means, from the institutional side, it is necessary to fit the experience, whose characteristics sometimes fall outside the conventional institutional structure, into an individual’s degree program and still meet administrative criteria as they relate to content, rigor, accreditation requirements, etc.

Consequently, a key success factor in the globalization of business is the development of international experience and related to this, intercultural skills. Thus, a question of crucial importance in a globalized world is: How can people be prepared for globalization? How can international experience and intercultural skills be developed?

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Advances in International Marketing
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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