When I was working on my MBA, I wanted to study abroad to develop a global business mindset, but no such program existed at that time. I had taken an Introduction to Spanish course, and my professor, Dr. Armando Payas, invited me to go to Spain for a summer study abroad. I went and my entire life changed.
Last summer, the Harbert College of Business had 77 students working as consultants for a number of companies in Madrid, 29 interns in Prague, and 9 interns in Dublin. When listening to Harbert students present their recommendations to their clients in Madrid, it occurred to me that it had been 41 years to the day since I arrived in Spain with Dr. Payas. After following up on his simple invitation to go to Spain, I eventually became part of a team delivering Harbert business programs abroad, the type of programs I wanted as a student decades ago.
The world with all its differences, sharing so many similarities, was opened up to me by studying abroad. We are fortunate here at Harbert to have faculty and staff who have been the bedrock of our undergraduate summer study abroad programs. Dr. Dan Padgett and Dr. Garry Adams have helped change the lives of hundreds of students. Collectively, we want to share these opportunities with our students.
We have had a range of students and study destinations since beginning our programs in 1977. From Prague to Shanghai and everywhere in between, the Harbert College of Business offers programs that are truly life-altering learning experiences.
Our programs embed Harbert and local faculty to guide, teach, and coach our students while in country. In addition to class work, students take special tours of local businesses and cultural sites. A major advantage at Harbert is our emphasis on applied learning. We have different programs for different students.
For more advanced students, we offer consulting opportunities with global companies. For rising juniors and seniors, we provide internships with local businesses. For non-business majors, we provide a two-country model so that students may obtain an entire business minor in one summer abroad while studying in Italy and Spain.
Students, parents, and competitors routinely ask what a Harbert undergraduate student actually gets from studying abroad, what the return on investment is for these programs. Great question. To measure ROI, consider that students who have completed our programs average $10,323 more in starting salary than those students who do not study with us. Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me. But as a marketing guy, I believe it is more important to ask our students what they think of our programs than to simply rely on my opinion. For example:
“Who could predict 15 years ago that I would embark on this journey and wind up working in London? I look back on the British studies program as one of those defining experiences that shaped me to be the person that I am. You took a kid from Birmingham, opened her eyes and made her want to see the world.”—Laurie Walls, strategic partner lead at Google.
“Experiencing business abroad and another culture abroad is an unrivaled experience. By being present in the country, you learn more than you can by book or research. I am now more aware of bias, stereotypes, and assumptions that are present in international business and international culture. I have a holistic, complete-picture view of business and how different functions interact within a company.”— Madison Rolling, MBA 2018.
Harbert has been on the cutting edge of bringing a global mindset to all of our programs. Harbert was one of the first colleges of business in the US to require master’s students to have a study abroad experience. If you come to Harbert, you go abroad. It’s that simple. Beginning in 2000 with our Executive MBAs, followed by all other master’s students, we have traveled the world. Reflection papers suggest our programs change students professionally and personally.
Learning about business with a global mindset does not require students to physically go abroad. We are looking to expand opportunities for our students to learn about global business with field trips to global companies that reside here in Alabama. Using technology, we can link classes at Harbert with classes at other universities in other countries. We will have business leaders based in other countries make presentations to our students here on campus.
Developing a global mindset that helps our students compete in a global economy is what we are all about.
Thomas Walter Professor
Director, Global Programs