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Global Business Institute Kicks Off With Scholarships, Faculty Roundtable

Pitt Business students learn about study abroad options at the Global Business Institute launch symposiumGoing abroad to experience life in another country — breathing the air, speaking the language, feeling the rhythm of the community — can be a deeply transformative experience for college students.

The Global Business Institute (GBI) is poised to take this form of study abroad to the next level. Whereas traditional study abroad is elective heavy, the GBI lets students take Pitt Business courses while abroad. This means that in addition to immersing themselves in the culture of the host country, students get to deeply embed themselves in its business community as well.  

To celebrate the launch of the GBI, Pitt Business and the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership hosted a faculty symposium and study abroad learning fair at the University Club. The theme of the symposium was “Transformative Experiences through Global Service Learning.” In the morning there was a roundtable where faculty members shared their perspectives on study abroad. In the afternoon there was a student activity fair where students learned about Pitt’s 300 study abroad programs in 75 different countries. At the fair, $15,000 in study abroad scholarships was given out to students whose names were drawn at random. Ten students received $1,000 scholarships and one student received a $5,000 scholarship.

The GBI has five international locations, with each one tailored to a specific functional area, although students can take business courses outside of those areas. Locations available now include London, England, (accounting and finance), Florence, Italy, (human resources management) and Sydney, Australia (marketing and business information systems). Coming soon are locations in Shanghai, China (supply chain management), and Buenos Aires, Argentina (global management).

The GBI is a partnership between Pitt Business and CAPA International Education, an organization that has provided international education support services to the University of Pittsburgh for over 25 years. To commemorate its longstanding partnership with Pitt, CAPA International announced at the symposium that it was making a $25,000 gift to Pitt to be used for study abroad scholarships.

At the symposium, members of CAPA International and Pitt’s faculty spoke about the differences between service learning and simple volunteerism. Michael Woolf, deputy president for strategic development of CAPA International, said service learning combines the best of both worlds. It serves the public good and it gives students an experience rooted in clearly defined learning objectives.

Service learning is “based on the principle of engagement with communities,” Woolf said.

Pitt faculty members, ranging from those in the school of business to those in social work and engineering, spoke on their views toward what ingredients make a successful service-based trip abroad.

Ray Jones, a faculty member with Pitt Business, once led a team of business and engineering students to Palermo, Italy, to study sustainability issues that related to UMPC in Pittsburgh and a hospital in Palermo.

“There are two things you need to offer an authentic experience abroad, and get past tourism,” Jones said. “First, you need strong partners. CAPA, you are here today because you are a strong partner. Also, you need to incorporate work before, work during, and work after the project. I also make the students give a presentation while they are abroad.”

Sara Goodkind, associate professor at the School of Social Work, teaches a course called Global Perspectives in Social Work. She is wary of her students falling into the trap of “professional imperialism,” which means imposing your values and ideals on others.

She cited the work of a group of professors from St. Louis University who organized trips for social work students in Ghana in which the students met with NGOs. “This model of reverse mission trips emphasizes raising the critical consciousness of North Americans. Through this process, students have the opportunity to challenge their own assumptions and biases.”

In addition to Jones and Goodkind, the faculty speakers included the following:

  • Ralph Bangs, Associate Director of the Center on race and Social Problems at the School of Social Work
  • Larry Shuman, Distinguished Service Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Swanson School of Engineering.
  • Macrina Lelei, Associate Director of the African Studies Program, University Center for International Studies (UCIS)
  • Jon Pearlman, Associate Director of Engineering at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories and Assistant Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology
  • John Stoner, Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of History