Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Study Abroad for Business School

In last September’s Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, Peter J. Gordon, Tori Patterson, and John Cherry discussed the importance of improving study abroad enrollment for business students in their piece Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students.  Their concern is that while “much has been written about the benefits of overseas study to returning students, little has been published which discusses how to use this outcome information and other strategies to motivate future students to go abroad.”  The students, in this case, are business students, for whom they claim international competence is more important than any other academic discipline thanks to our increasingly globalized world.  The central question in this piece is, “how do we increase the number of US business students studying abroad?”

The authors identify several barriers to business students studying abroad: financial and fear, cultural, and administrative and academic.  These issues that they present align very closely with the barriers to study abroad laid out in IIE’s 2014 green paper, What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad?; cost, culture and curriculum.  The barriers they present resulted from a recent survey conducted by member universities of the Magellan Exchange.  The most common barrier, according to the survey, was a financial one.  Many students can’t, or believe they can’t, afford to participate in study abroad programs.  However, as the authors point out, there are currently ways to get around this issue of cost, including scholarships, loans, or student travel savings plans.  They then discuss the cultural barriers formed by the influence of family, friends, and professors.  According to the survey, 90% of US students saw family as somewhat of a barrier or a large barrier.  This is especially true for first-generation college students.  The authors suggest an information campaign on study abroad directed at parents, to show them that these programs are safe and beneficial for their children.  Likewise, unsupportive friends can create a barrier to studying abroad.  The authors suggest pairing prospective study abroad students with past participants to share their great experiences.  Another step that needs to be taken is to convince faculty (who may be advising prospective study-abroad students) of the worth of international experience- the authors suggest incorporating this in the criteria for achieving tenure.  I like the idea… but I don’t quite see that one flying anytime soon.  The authors present a similarly unrealistic solution to curricular barriers:

There is no business major which covers every piece of knowledge in the discipline. So departments should recognize that the student who learns something different than what might have been identified in the major coursework at home had at least an equally rich academic experience as one who stayed at home and followed the precise curriculum. Prerequisite requirements may need to be waived – for example, does it really matter which comes first – micro or macroeconomics? Basically, every effort needs to be made to ensure a semester of overseas study moves the student a semester closer to graduation.

I applaud the authors’ enthusiasm, but I can’t imagine departments giving up control of their academic requirements that easily.

While I don’t think that they present the most realistic solutions, I do agree with the authors’ conclusions: “Increasing student participation in study abroad programs should be a key goal of all business schools,” “Institutional support for study abroad must be a priority,” and that there must be a holistic approach to reducing the barriers to study abroad.  The Committee for Economic Development’s 2006 report Education for Global Leadership claims that “To compete successfully in the global marketplace, U.S.-based multinationals as well as small businesses must market products to customers around the globe and work effectively with foreign employees and business partners.”  Clearly, the authors of Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students would agree, and would argue that to achieve this, we must do more to encourage business school students to study abroad. 

Gordon, P. J., Patterson, T., & Cherry, J. (2014). Increasing International Study Abroad Rates for Business Students. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 18(3), 77.

Heintz, S., & Isaacson, W. (2006). Education for global leadership: The importance of international studies and foreign language education for US economic and national security.  

Institute of International Education. (2014). What Will it Take to Double Study Abroad?. Retrieved from:

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