According to a Forbes article from 2019, one of the most important job skill employers look for when hiring future employees is cultural intelligence. As businesses continue to expand beyond borders, it’s important for students in the Culverhouse College of Business and its Manderson Graduate School of Business to learn how to work effectively in culturally diverse situations.
One way for students to develop and improve this skill is by studying abroad.
Lauren Ward Wilson, who graduated from Culverhouse in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in management and from Manderson in 2012 with an MBA with business analytics focus, studied abroad as a student and again as a teaching assistant.
In May 2011, Lauren studied international business analytics at Ghent University in Belgium, an experience that helped her grow personally and professionally. Traveling outside the country for the first time increased her confidence, and the opportunity to study alongside Ghent University students taught her how to work outside her comfort zone.
“My study abroad experience afforded me an introduction to international business. In my career I’ve often worked cross-border and partnered with people across the world. After having spent time immersed in another culture during my study abroad, I felt confident in my ability to build strong partnerships with colleagues around all corners of the globe,” Wilson said.
David Meehan, a senior marketing student in Culverhouse’s Accelerated Master’s Program, studied abroad for two semesters at the University of Westminster in London, England. By studying international business and photography in another country, Meehan had job, internship and business classroom experiences that otherwise would not have been available to him.
“At my internship, I worked with editors and personalities from the U.K., Australia, Turkey and Jamaica, and I had professors at the university from Russia, Nigeria, Italy and India. In London, I learned how to develop global relationships and utilize them for a common goal.”
Both Lauren and David recommend studying abroad to other students, with Lauren describing her time abroad as one of her most memorable college experiences. David said the experience will shape who he is for the rest of his life, adding that he has maintained many of the friendships that began while studying abroad.
By establishing a fund to support a robust study abroad program within Culverhouse and Manderson, more students can take part in career-and life-transforming experiences of their own.
“When we talk to our corporate partners about what they look for when making new hires, they often express a desire to build teams that can adapt to new ways of doing things and learn from those with different backgrounds,” said Connie Chambers, director of corporate partnerships at Manderson.
“Emphasizing global study as part of our curriculum would go a long way toward ensuring our students have those capabilities.”