University Considers Requiring International Experience for Students

By Dana Kastenson - COB web intern

As the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire ranks 14th in the nation from a 2006 Open Doors Report of students who study abroad, plans to make the campus environment and the student population more internationally savvy are underway with the chancellor’s strategic planning.

Two College of Business faculty members, associate professor of marketing Rama Yelkur and professor of information systems Bruce Lo, are part of “Preparing Global Leaders,” a stragtegic planning work group looking at ideas on how to create international experiences for students at UW-Eau Claire.

“We want to explore what it means to prepare for global citizenship” Lo said.

Yelkur believes that with global competition students should be prepared.

“A student needs to be trained in [a global] environment,” she said. “Being thrown into a different culture for 2 to 3 weeks changes your life. It’s different than classroom learning.”

Appointed to the group, members have discussed ways students can gain what according to Yelkur is an international experience.

While a semester studying abroad is the most recognized choice for students, the work group has also brought up other options to fulfill the proposed requirement of an international experience. These range from international internships, to six week faculty lead travel experiences for certain classes. Student may also be able to satisfy the requirement without leaving UW-Eau Claire by interning at companies based in Eau Claire that have international ties.

“It’s interdisciplinary study,” Yelkur said. “It opens up a lot for creativity.”

As recently as October, neighboring University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management now requires an international experience for all students to graduate. Both Lo and Yelkur see this as a growing trend in other business schools.

While larger schools like the University of Minnesota may be the first to start this trend, Yelkur said campuses like UW-Eau Claire that have limited diversity may be more adept to adopting international experience requirements.

Lo said that it is a matter of being a leader in global study when it comes to business.

“Unless you have a mom and pop business, most business students need to have an international experience,” he said.

However, the College of Business has received help to develop more of its global studies program. According to a September 18, University News Bureau news release, the College was awarded a $174,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education and International Education program for the “Partnerships in International Education” initiative at the College.

The “Partnerships in International Education” with the grant will be able to work international education into the curriculum, having every course in the College work in 20 percent international content.

While the goal of the workgroup is to have each student graduate with an international experience, Lo and Yelkur said that options like the semester study abroad is not for everyone.

“Some students may be intimidated, but we don’t want them to shy away from UW-Eau Claire,” Lo said. “We want international exposure on campus as well.”

This exposure he said is what the work group is most concentrating on.

As for requiring every student to have an international experience, Lo said the implementation will require some time. However, according to the University’s strategic planning timeline, the University Planning Commission will submit the first draft of the strategic plan by the end of this year.

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