Carlson to require international experience

The Carlson School will be the first undergraduate college to require international study.

Ahnalese Rushmann

The Carlson School of Management plans to announce next week that starting with the freshman class of 2008, all of its undergraduates must fulfill an “international experience” requirement before graduation.

Carlson will be the first undergraduate college with an international requirement. Of 1,773 Carlson undergraduates, 219 studied abroad during the 2006-2007 school year, according to statistics from Carlson.

Michael Houston, associate dean of Carlson’s international programs, said international business issues are fundamental to anyone seeking a business career.

“Being able to work cross-culturally is important to organizations that are more operating on a global basis,” he said.

Houston said study abroad programs would qualify as an “international experience.” Overseas internships and service-learning programs are also being considered, he said.

Mary Kosir, assistant dean of undergraduate programs at Carlson, said specifications have not been finalized.

“The international experience is an actual degree requirement, the details of which are still being worked out,” said Kosir, who studied abroad in Austria during college.

Credit and non-credit options and short- and long-term study abroad programs are all being considered, Kosir said.

Carlson is at the forefront of this international movement, which is tied with the University’s Strategic Positioning Plan, she said.

“I think that this really supports the president’s emphasis on study abroad at the University of Minnesota as a whole,” she said.

However, for some students the financial aspects of the decision could be a concern.

Third-year finance major Rick Lonneman, who spent a semester in Germany, said while an international experience could be challenging for students to arrange, the Carlson school is probably taking cost into consideration.

“They realize students don’t have as wide of a wallet to accommodate the expenses of an international experience,” Lonneman said. “There are ways of getting the experience at a lower cost.”

He said the decision shows the Carlson school is “moving in the right direction,” and students will become more globally minded.

Kosir said the Carlson school is aggressively raising money for more scholarships.

Academic advisers will also be helpful to incoming students, she said.

Al Balkcum, director of the Learning Abroad Center, said students might see more requirements like Carlson’s in the near future.

He said the Actor Training Program in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance is currently the only program with a similar requirement.

“If you’ve had an experience abroad or you have a second language, it gives you an up in getting a job,” Balkcum said.

According to the Institute of International Education’s 2006 Open Doors Report, the University ranked third for study abroad students when compared to similar institutions.

During the 2004-2005 school year, 1,836 University students studied abroad, an 11.7 percent increase from the previous year and a five-year increase of 73.5 percent, according to the report.

The University of Texas-Austin and Penn State University were ranked first and second, respectively.

Although last school year’s statistics won’t be published until November, Balkcum said the Learning Abroad Center can confirm 1,981 University students studied abroad during the 2005-2006 school year.

He said the Learning Abroad Center’s primary concern isn’t just sending as many students abroad as it can.

“We’re trying to tie the study abroad experience into their major,” he said. “And I think it makes for a more meaningful experience in the college student’s career.”

Christina Tarjan, a speech language and hearing sciences major, studied abroad in Germany last spring.

Although she isn’t a Carlson student, Tarjan said Carlson’s new requirement is a good idea, but that it will be important to assist students with financial issues.

She said it is important for students from all colleges to go abroad to see how their actions translate in another culture.

“It’s made me want to know about where I fit in everything in the world and what my

contributions are.”