Business, technology open doors to the world

Sascha Matuszak

One thousand years ago, silk caravans from China traveled across treacherous Central Asian plateaus and through deserts before reaching the markets of Europe, if they indeed made it that far.
These days, a young man in Beijing can order a computer via the Internet and have it delivered from Silicon Valley the next day — guaranteed.
Business and technology are exploding areas of human activity and interaction, drawing the world closer together as they expand across the globe.
With each new technological innovation — each new Web site and computer upgrade — business adds a new tool to its toolbox, allowing it to react faster to consumer demands and access as many markets worldwide as possible.
Because of business and technology’s vital role in shaping the world, the Institute of Technology and the Carlson School of Management must be sure to train its men and women well. They must not only be able to strike a deal or fix a computer, but also meet the specific needs of their clients, both domestic and international.
The Carlson School has moved to the front lines of internationalization, providing a variety of study-abroad programs for both the faculty members and the students, along with creating a new international business major and minor.
IT, on the other hand, has progressed more covertly and methodically. Through a collaboration with the Global Campus — the University’s central office for study-abroad programs — the college is quietly sending more students abroad than ever before.
The Carlson School of Management
Ten years ago, one could have counted on one hand the number of Carlson School professors studying in other nations.
“There was no student exchange program, no summer exchange program and no faculty exchange program,” said Mahmood Zaidi, director of International Program Development.
Since Zaidi took over the program, the Carlson School has begun an ambitious program to provide more money for study abroad and overseas travel for faculty members.
“Now they’re never around,” Jerry Rinehart joked, referring to the school’s faculty members. Rinehart is the assistant dean and director of undergraduate studies for Carlson.
All over the nation, business schools are seeing the same thing: They need to be more connected and more aware of the international community in order to stay competitive.
“The individual student has to have a functional skill so that they can perform a task for a company,” said Ron Baukol, executive vice president of international operations for 3M.
“What has changed is the need for the student to also incorporate world views into that functional skill,” he added.
Baukol serves on the Carlson School’s International Programs Advisory Council. The council consists of company leaders, executive vice presidents and presidents of major Minnesota corporations — Cargill, Ecolab, General Mills and Medtronic are among the companies represented.
The Carlson School surveyed members of the business community and consulted with the council to find out the interests of Minnesota businesses.
Eastern Europe emerged as the leading concern, followed by Western Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America and South Asia.
“We can’t talk about Moscow anymore. We need to know our geography,” Zaidi said. “Faculty, staff, students, all of us should have a great consciousness of what is around us.”
Minneapolis meets Warsaw
The business school listened carefully and has taken several steps to maximize international education and face the competition.
Like the College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences, the Carlson School is directing effort and money into sending faculty members abroad, which is the key to providing an internationalized curriculum.
For example, the school has two programs in Europe — one in Warsaw, Poland, and the other in Vienna, Austria — designed to get professors out of the office and into the global atmosphere.
“The faculty are being tugged, trying to improve the main mission of providing education to the students, and at the same time trying to get out of the country,” Rinehart said. “But it’s a good pressure.”
Carlson School faculty travel to Warsaw through the Warsaw Executive MBA program and teach courses as well as train faculty members at the Warsaw School of Economics.
Polish professionals are then able to earn master’s degrees from the Carlson School, and Polish economists and professors learn how the U.S. economy runs and how experiences can be applied to Poland.
The Polish students are often sponsored by their employers, the majority of which are more than willing to invest in a U.S.-style education for their economists.
The program in Vienna is slightly different, with faculty members from the Vienna School of Economics and Business Administration teaching courses jointly with University staff.
“(The Austrian economy) is not a transitional economy,” Zaidi said.
The study of transitional economies — from a centrally planned to a privatized capitalist system, for example — is a major component of international business, as more and more U.S. corporations extend their ties to developing countries.
For example, 3M has interests in China, and they are supporting the Carlson School’s effort to establish a program similar to the one in Warsaw with Ling Nan College of Zhongshan University in Guangzhou Province (Canton) for the academic year 2000-01.
“The reason (3M) wants to participate in China is that they need a lot of their employees trained who are doing business with China,” Zaidi said. “Either we need Uncle Sam or the business community.”
With the school’s limited resources for these types of endeavors, financial support as well as access to 3M’s network of connections is vital.
“One of the most difficult things to do well is establish international linkages and working relationships that are more than just puff,” Baukol said.
“So our guys in China have set up a few things for (the Carlson School) to do.”
Other efforts have been directed toward the study abroad program and the creation of an international business major. Study abroad has increased from an average of eight students a year to about 60 this year — due in part to increased funding for scholarships.
And the new major is extremely popular among freshmen, who were allowed to enroll in the Carlson School starting in 1996.
A hands-on education
Although the school still does not have a strong curriculum for international perspectives, it is making progress, said Sunil Karnawat, a master’s candidate at the college.
“(The school) should really include as much international curriculum as possible, because it helps the student,” he said.
A possible resource, both for the school and for the community, are the international students enrolled at the University.
“We have a very strong international student population at the Carlson School,” Karnawat said. “Our career services has to do a decent job of telling companies that we have 20 to 25 percent foreign students in the MBA program.”
Karnawat worked for a division of Medtronic in India and saw firsthand the great need for international education at universities.
“When I was there, I was constantly interacting with people traveling to China and India,” he said.
Karnawat is a member of an organization called GLOBE, a business-student club that promotes international activities, such as free English as a Second Language classes every Friday.
GLOBE helps facilitate interaction between international and Minnesota students, which Karnawat deems essential.
Knowledge of international issues is beneficial in today’s business environment, he said. “The American students are very knowledgeable, but they often lack the international perspective.”
An understanding of global cultures cannot be taught, but rather experienced. Yet the simple awareness that the United States is not the center of the world is important for students to have.
“We cannot build the understanding in the schools, but we can develop the realization and the techniques,” Baukol said.
The Institute of Technology
Although technological innovations represent the cutting edge of the globalization blade, the Institute of Technology’s actions to bring international perspectives into the school and send its students abroad have been, by some measures, dull.
Part of the problem has been the nature of IT courses. Students are often so focused on their schoolwork and on graduating on time that study abroad becomes a luxury. Even if they make it out of the country, students weren’t able to get credit toward their majors.
But recent collaborative efforts with the Global Campus have increased the number of IT students studying abroad from 15 last academic year to 60 this year.
“We’ve gone from a situation in which students who studied abroad did so without taking any courses in their major, to a situation in which roughly half of them are (taking courses in their major),” said Peter Hudleston, an associate dean in IT.
Two years ago, a permanent staff position was created in the Global Campus with financial support from IT. The staff member, Michelle Cumming, is developing a database of study abroad opportunities that would allow engineering, mathematics and physics students to continue their studies and still be able to travel.
The fact that technology is universally applicable makes the need for students with international experience more pressing than many realize.
“(Students’) talents, maybe five years down the road, are going to be needed abroad,” said Gerald Johnson, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of civil engineering.
Developing countries need roads and clean water more than they need faster computers, he added.
“A computer can be sent overseas, but you can’t do that with a highway,” Johnson said. “Someone has to go to those countries and work with the people to build these things.”
IT has been working with the Global Campus for three years, and the agriculture college is in the second year of a similar arrangement.
Both the Carlson School and the College of Liberal Arts have created positions, as well.
The joint efforts not only lend more clarity and organization to study abroad programs across the University but also establish stronger ties between offices and colleges.
By putting IT students in pre-existing study-abroad programs organized by other colleges, a cross-college, interdisciplinary solution to internationalization is reached.
For example, the University of Melbourne in Australia provides courses suitable for both Carlson School students and IT students. The University of Nottingham offers courses in English as well as Civil and Geological Engineering.
“If a student is interested in studying abroad, now we can immediately give them something,” Hudleston said.

Sascha Matuszak covers international affairs and can be reached at [email protected]