News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Business

August 7, 2011

ISU students learn about international business relations

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University professor Art Sherwood devised a final project for his students that was, in a word, brilliant!

Sherwood, an ISU associate professor of management, taught his international business management course during a three-week journey a group of students embarked on to Europe. Since he and the students resided in Ireland at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, during their stay, he implemented an iconic Irish resource into his course: the archives at the Guinness Storehouse in nearby Dublin.

At the archives, students scoured centuries-old documents to newer information on websites to create case study presentations on the business history of Guinness.

“A lot of students found information from when the company first started, and how they were producing their brew,” said Jenna Vaal, one of the students attending the trip. “These dated all the way back to Arthur Guinness’ first ingredient page, where he wrote down the ingredients that he was using, and how much of each one.”

Students in the Scott College of Business at ISU traveled to Europe to learn first-hand about international business relations, traditions and opportunities available to them. In addition to Sherwood’s group, other students joined Bruce and Connie McLaren, professors in the Scott College, and Steve and Becky Whitman, who created a fund to support a different journey — a weeklong trip to Paris.

During both trips, students learned about international business practices and relations in Europe. They also encountered cultural icons in different locations during their visits.

“What we want is for students to open their eyes to opportunities,” Bruce McLaren said of students studying internationally. “It gives them perspectives to speak to employers that really are different than they had before.”

Students on the Parisian trip met with business officials from European companies, which were scheduled throughout the group’s stay in the French city. In between meetings, the group toured Paris and stopped at many of the traditional locales, including the Louvre and even eating at a restaurant in the Eiffel Tower.

It wasn’t all recreation. Students also learned about business practices and concepts for companies in the European Union.

“It was definitely eye-opening to truly experience life in France,” student Miguel de la Rosa said. “It was more than a vacation.  We certainly explored every aspect of life there.”

The Whitmans created a fund that covered most of the costs for the nine students traveling to Paris. Yet Steve Whitman, an alumnus of the Scott College, also wanted to contribute more. He enlisted the help of friends and business contacts in Paris to meet with the students, and he traveled with the group to provide firsthand knowledge and perspectives from his experiences engaging in intercontinental trade.

“I’m not that much unlike them,” Whitman said. “I grew up in southern Indiana, never really had a lot of travel experience before I got into business, and it worked out OK with me.  So I think we can all do it.”

The McLarens arranged the trip’s logistics for the ISU participants. They sought out students who hadn’t previously traveled internationally. Six of the nine students on the trip lacked experience traveling outside the United States.

The professors also encouraged students between their sophomore and junior years to participate, Connie McLaren said. That way, students can arrange for a semester to study abroad later if they’re interested, she said.

Bruce McLaren thought some students chose to visit Ireland rather than travel to Paris. He thought it was beneficial for students to have the choice between the different countries and time-frames to visit.

The Ireland journey, co-sponsored by ISU’s Office of International Programs and Services and Networks Financial Institute in the Scott College of Business, allowed students to learn about international business during the three-week trip. The group learned about the financial system in the European Union, along with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They studied Ireland’s National Parliament, the Houses of the Oireachtas, visited the U.S. Embassy in Dublin and met with partners at Ernst and Young in Dublin.

The group also went to London, where students toured the Bank of England and the London Metal Exchange. The group of 15 students and two leadership interns who graduated in May also visited other cultural and tourist stops, such as Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tower of London, while they were in England for four days.

Many lessons were taught that could not have been experienced in the classroom. Students split up into three teams to plan trip logistics, study culture issues and gain background about different businesses. They learned firsthand how to budget with multiple currencies and how business practices and etiquette in European countries compares to those in the U.S., said Priscilla Wolfe, director of education at NFI who led the London portion of the trip.

“I think it was useful for them to understand business and banking specifically from an international perspective, and how it varies across countries,” Wolfe said.

For some students, the Ireland experience changed their perceptions as well. For ISU junior Jenna Vaal, the trip marked the first time she ever traveled outside of the U.S. She and Jaclin Huxford, who were student co-leaders, helped make some of the group's arrangements when they toured Ireland and England.

Vaal is interested in pursuing an internship in a different country, something she didn’t consider before the trip.

“Before, I had only been on a train to Chicago, which is not a big deal,” she said. “But then when you go on a train across Ireland, pretty much by yourself, you know you can do it, and you have more faith in yourself.”

The group also got to witness Irish history. During their visit, Queen Elizabeth II of England visited Ireland, the first time since the early 1900s an English monarch had been on Irish soil, Sherwood said.

“The nice thing about it, her visit encouraged the students to learn more about Irish-English history,” Sherwood said. “They came out with a much deeper understanding about what has transpired between the two countries.”

Visits to different sites in Europe strengthened the students’ understanding of the lessons that were taught, Sherwood said.

“Our work in the archives at Guinness went way beyond my expectations,” he added. “I’ve never seen a group of students dig so deeply into a live case, where they owned it.”

Students learned about international business and cultures during the trips to Europe. Junior Jade Conrad, who made the journey to Paris, learned about etiquette and proper behavior with regard to business interactions in a different culture.

The trip helped her to expand her professional goals, and it’s helped her realize she can achieve more than she previously thought.

“It ended up 10 times greater than I thought it would be,” Conrad said. “Just the things that I saw and got to experience, everything was just amazing. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”

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