Nearly one in four Michigan State University students study abroad sometime during their undergraduate years. That’s one of the highest rates of any school in the nation.
It’s also nowhere near being high enough for Broad Spartans.
“Even though we are a school that is among the higher percentages … overall, the participation rate is still very, very low,” said Sanjay Gupta, dean of the Eli Broad College of Business. “(With) the way the world is moving and the future of business, which is so highly interconnected and geographically dispersed, it is absolutely essential that we get to the point where every one of our students has at least some experience beyond the shores of the United States.”
That’s a formidable goal. But a necessary one, according to Gupta.
“There is no way to learn about what’s going on globally, what’s going on internationally, without stepping foot on foreign soil,” Gupta said. “It is imperative that our students take themselves out of their comfort zone, and spend at least a little bit of time in a distant land, in a foreign country – and foreign here really means foreign, so it is beyond what they are already used to – and experience what living life means in that place, what is the culture, what is the language, how do people behave and respond.”
That means going beyond places similar to America, like Canada or western Europe, Gupta said.
“Even ordering food at a restaurant in a place that is totally out of your comfort zone is a great learning experience. Just interacting socially with people who are there is a great learning experience,” Gupta said. “Developing a global mindset is now no longer an option. It is something that should be viewed as mandatory.”
And it’s an expectation employers have of Broad Spartans: that they are ready to hit the ground running when it comes to global engagement.
“One of the key attributes of success for our graduates is that they have a global mindset. This is a term they have to truly embrace and internalize,” Gupta said. “Developing a global mindset is not going to happen by accident. It has to be something that they purposefully pursue, and how that pursuit takes place of course can have multiple dimensions.”
These dimensions at the Broad College include a curriculum that takes into heavy account a multinational worldview; extracurricular activities that have a global focus like the student-run Spartan Global Development Fund, which makes microloans to budding entrepreneurs in developing countries; and resources like the Broad Study Abroad Fair, held on Thursday, Sept. 27.
“I hope more and more of our students will actively look at those opportunities and actively pursue one or more of these programs, so they can develop this global mindset,” Gupta said. “We are already doing a lot around the curriculum; we are doing a lot in terms of fostering study abroad and education abroad, and this fair is part of that effort.”
At the fair, Alexander Fohlbrook, who hopes to be a finance major with a minor in international business, was browsing options in Asia. He said he hopes such an experience will help him “learn a little bit more about different cultures, and also a different way of learning instead of being in a classroom.”
Ashley Reynolds, a sophomore business preference major, said she was curious about Australia and New Zealand. “I want to get the experience of seeing and being a part of different cultures while getting an education, and meet new people from different countries, as well as Michigan State,” she said.
In addition to study abroad programs, Broad Spartans have also used internships to take their learning across borders and around the world. Some of this past summer’s internship locales included China, South Africa, and New Zealand, among other countries.
Ellie Wedge, a marketing and supply chain management major, interned in Beijing, China this past summer for WildChina, a travel company that makes tailor-made trips.
“My favorite experience has been learning first-hand how local culture and demographics affect business practices,” Wedge said. “Collecting and analyzing quantitative data has given me insight into company goals, but immersion and friendships have given me a greater understanding of the cultural significance,” Wedge said.