Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Innovation in International Exchange: STB Brazil

This week I came across a fascinating interview in The PIE News with Jose Carlos Hauer Santos, CEO of STB, one of Brazil's largest student travel businesses.  STB does a little of everything- traditional high school and college student exchanges, vocational training exchanges, educational tourism, volunteer exchanges, teacher exchanges, and international internships.  In the interview, Hauer Santos made some very interesting and astute observations about the business of international exchange.  One thing he said that really stuck with me was "you don’t organise student affairs anymore, you organise something linked to education and lifestyle. We help create global access through education."  To realize this, they have created a program called Global Access Through Education (GATE), which is an event and forum that brings together 93 different exchange programs, including 25 universities, to counsel students interested in international exchange.  Interested students can interact directly with STB's partner schools and programs through this event.  STB also has global citizenship programs through a partnership with Where There Be Dragons.  I found this interesting, as I would not necessarily expect a for-profit to be interested in global citizenship.  Bauer Santos attributes this variety to "People are learning more and more in their country so they want different kind of programmes when they travel abroad."  

It is interesting to see how innovation works in private international exchange versus at HEIs.  While both are driven by the demands of their student clientele, private, for-profit groups can afford to experiment more with the services they offer.  Hauer Santos mentions that STB offers several programs that nobody else has, including a cultural exchange and work program with Disney World.  Non-profit universities can't afford to experiment like this and risk losing money on new programs that may not get enough of an enrollment.  Private exchange options like this also give students an opportunity to study abroad while avoiding the traditional issues associated with curriculum.  They offer programs year-round, so students could potentially participate during a summer or other break, and not have it affect their required curriculum.  

I think that university internationalization offices should follow the work of for-profit exchange programs carefully.  While there are obvious administrative and financial differences between the two sectors, universities could gain a lot from watching the innovation of for-profits to see what works and what doesn't, without taking any undue risks themselves.

Baker, A. & Hauer Santos, J. C..  (2015).  Jose Carlos Hauer Santos, CEO of STB, Brazil.   Retrieved from The Professionals in International Education News PIE Chats:

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