By Erin Harris
In 1492 Columbus discovered a “new world,” completely changing the course of humanity. Today there are 194 countries recognized by the U.S, and the world is only getting smaller. New technologies have allowed people to travel great distances in a short amount of time and communicate across those distances instantaneously. Yet, how do we achieve acceptance and prepare the next generation of professionals for this changing global community? How do we prepare our students to enter the global workforce?
Why the need for globally aware graduates?
The need for global awareness spreads farther than the engineering field alone. From healthcare to banking, leaders within all industries need to be aware of the globe’s increasing connectedness. The shrinking world, speedy technological advances, and disintegrating borders create a greater need to keep up with global news. In order to fulfill this need incoming professionals must develop discernment for this unity across all corners of the earth. They need the proper education, environment and nurturing in order to lead in this new age of globalization. Individuals who are unaware of the global interconnectivity cannot keep up with industry changes, and will inevitably fall behind.
How to Prepare Students
In order to prepare students for the workforce, universities all across the country have taken several steps toward global education. Through university-wide required classes, language courses and the study abroad programs, universities have begun focusing on the fact that many industries are not exclusively lead by the United States.
For instance, at Michigan Technological University (MTU), Mari Buche, PhD, Associate Professor of Management Information Systems, School of Business and Economics, has incorporated projects with real world companies into the Management Information Systems curriculum. By giving students the opportunity to work for companies that operate in the global arena they learn to consider boundary-spanning challenges.
“Another technique for exposing students to global opportunities is when I have them work on virtual teams with students from other countries. They get a first-hand look at the language, time zones, and cultural challenges that distributed teams must cope with to be successful,” said Dr. Buche. “In contrast, they also experience the incredible benefits of diverse perspectives and backgrounds, often leading to superior alternatives and solutions.”
In addition, Dr. Buche incorporated an “investigating global issues” component into the program. Through the analysis of business case studies students gain awareness and realize the complexities associated with information systems and technology within multinational companies. She teaches students that regulations are not universal and business leaders must develop knowledge of many facets of the legal aspects intertwined in the technical world.
Study Abroad Opportunities
There are roughly 3.3 million students studying abroad. The experience not only helps cultivate valuable skills but also offers students the opportunity to engage in intensive language programs and immerse in a foreign culture, as well as access courses not available at their own university.
Here in Michigan, universities have been developing programs to better encourage students to study abroad for at least one semester during their academic career. In 2012, the University of Michigan was one of five U.S. colleges and universities to receive the 2012 Senator Paul Simon Award that recognizes outstanding and innovative achievements in campus internationalization. As of the fall semester 2012 a total of 8,491 international students, faculty and staff studied and/or worked at the University of Michigan.
In addition to study abroad opportunities many universities have also incorporated globalization into their curriculum. For example, the MTU Pavlis Program—a global technology leadership program challenges students by teaching them valuable leadership skills and requiring them to study abroad for one semester. The university also offers various certifications that any major at the university may pursue, including international economics and management, global finance and international business.
Across the U.S. and the globe universities are working to prepare the next generation to take on the world and lead all industries to success. The world is changing and becoming a smaller place. The marketplace is becoming more diverse and the world integrated. Thus, the need for knowledgeable business leaders is increasing and there are many ways to prepare them for the future.