While the COVID-19 virus has traveled the world with relative ease, we humans have had to forego our travels for a time. With global education and experiential learning key to our Walker College of Business mission, faculty have found creative ways to support these goals despite travel restrictions . From virtual study abroad to teaching internationally from home, here are some of the ways faculty and staff have supported international learning during this uniquely challenging time.
Global Experiential Learning Goes Virtual
Instead of boarding a plane to Brazil, Japan or India to participate in a summer faculty-led study abroad program, one group of MBA students spent two weeks planning one… virtually that is. These virtual study abroad programs were the final project for the MBA 5020 International Seminar course - an integral part of the Walker College of Business MBA curriculum and always, until now, taught abroad.
With all international programs cancelled this spring due to the global pandemic, Dr. Charlie Chen, professor of computer information systems and veteran faculty-led program leader stepped in to create a viable online option for the course. He did so with his characteristic energy, creativity and enthusiasm, making use of his broad knowledge of digital technology. Instead of creating an online course on culture, he gave students an active role in their learning as program leaders, assigned to create their own dream study abroad program.
Students worked in virtual teams assessing risk, creating itineraries with virtual tours of sites of interest, determining pricing and designing promotional materials. To experience the destination country’s culture, they used Duolingo to learn useful phrases, researched etiquette, used Google Translate to read news in their chosen country, watched films from their destination and reached out to alumni located abroad.
While planning a virtual international experience is not the same as participating in an in-person one, Dr. Chen finds benefits to this approach, particularly in the areas of international project management and the use of emerging technologies.
“Students enhance their cultural awareness and expand their international horizons via the experiences of designing, planning, and executing a virtual study abroad program,” notes Dr. Chen, “They are also connected with and inspired by our alumni abroad.”
Staying Connected Globally
Making international connections is the essence of global education. Like our students, Walker College of Business faculty have also seen travel plans take an unexpected turn to the virtual. This group of faculty from across the college have maintained international connections, and supported global education, despite the change.
Assistant professors Dr. Brandy Hadley of finance and banking, Dr. Lubna Nafees of marketing and Dr. Brian Whitaker of management were probably looking forward to enjoying French pastries, excellent coffee and the beauties of the city of Angers, France this summer. Instead, with the Angers Summer Business Program cancelled due to COVID-19, they find themselves at home, teaching “internationally” online.
In its eighth year, the Angers Summer Business Program brings together Appalachian State students and students of the International Management Master’s program for a month of cultural exchange at the University of Angers. Students take joint classes taught by Appstate professors in English and spend time studying and socializing together. With travel cancelled, our colleagues at the University of Angers would have been left to find faculty to cover these courses. Our professors stepped in and offered to teach the Angers Master's students online.
Luckily, the French students are making it easy. According to Drs. Nafees and Hadley, the Angers students are a very motivated and engaged group.
“I have greatly enjoyed teaching “in Angers” this summer, even if it has only been virtually, said Dr. Hadley. “Their perseverance and resilience through the current challenges and language barrier are inspiring. In this time of separation, it is powerful to come together despite such significant distance.”
The University of Angers is not the only international partner with whom faculty have maintained commitments despite travel restrictions. Drs. Lakshmi Iyer and Dinesh Dave chose to keep their India faculty-led study abroad program scheduled, albeit virtually. With willing partners at Kristu Jayanti College in Bangaluru, India, they led the first fully virtual study abroad program at Appstate. You can read more about their outstanding program featured in Appalachian Today.
Global Learning Matters
From the efforts of these faculty members to adding sections of globally-themed courses this summer and offering international scholarship recipients a larger window for using their funding, the Walker College of Business department chairs, faculty and staff have supported global education for students, both here and abroad.
“The restrictions on travel imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed our faculty and students to demonstrate their creativity and flexibility in ways we would never have seen otherwise. Certainly, we miss the long flights in tiny seats and standing in line at customs and immigration. However, both faculty and students have made the best of a difficult situation and found new opportunities for personal growth and academic training in this unprecedented environment,” says Dr. Marty Meznar, associate dean for global and civic engagement and overseer of the college’s international programs. “This moment will pass and we will be back in those tiny seats and long lines. They will never have felt so good!”
About International Programs with Appalachian's Walker College of Business
The Walker College of Business encourages students to study abroad and provides a variety of short-term international programs designed to develop international business skills and intercultural knowledge. These faculty-led programs have proven to be invaluable for many students. Scholarships are available. Fluency in a second language is not required and students can earn credit toward their degree. For more information on future opportunities, please contact Global & Civic Engagement Specialist Meredith Church Pipes, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit international.business.appstate.edu.