SOM prepares to launch required student trips abroad

Faculty and administrators at the Yale School of Management are gearing up for a series of 10-day trips around the world in which students in the Class of 2008 will be required to participate for graduation.

The international experiences, which are intended to provide students with a more global education, are a key component of SOM’s new interdisciplinary core curriculum being implemented this year. This year’s trips, scheduled for January 2007, will take students to one of a wide variety of destinations, including Argentina, Costa Rica, India, Japan and Singapore. Two groups — each with a different business focus — are also scheduled to visit China, and there will be a joint trip to England and Poland as well as one to South Africa and Tanzania.

SOM spokeswoman Elizabeth Stauderman said the trips, which were partly inspired by past student-organized international break trips, are different from previous student-led endeavors because they are mandatory for all first-year students and have a stronger academic focus.

Stauderman also said the trips are designed to reflect the changing global work environment that SOM graduates will one day be a part of.

“We know our graduates go out into the real world of business, and by that we mean the entire world,” Stauderman said. “There is no way in this day and age that our students will be able to work without having some sort of international contact.”

Carlo Colecchia, director of International Academic Programs at SOM, said he credits students who organized similar trips in previous years for providing the foundation for the new international experience.

“The students have really led the way in this case,” Colecchia said. “The faculty and dean all see the value in it, and what we’re mainly adding is support in terms of increased pre-departure preparation, greater academic emphasis, and a connection to the core curriculum.”

SOM Deputy Dean Stanley Garstka — who will be accompanying the joint trip to England and Poland — also said the new curriculum-based trips will have a greater academic emphasis and more faculty control. He said the international experiences will be relevant to the Organizational Perspectives module of the school’s new curriculum, in which students learn skills necessary to engage individuals in different management roles.

“The philosophy is to try and tie the trips into the perspective classes,” Garstka said. “Some of the trips are themed to classes the students will take, so they are closely based on the core.”

Garstka said the trip to England and Poland, for example, will focus on both the investor’s perspective as well as the relationship between state and society — both of which are the focus of classes in SOM’s new core curriculum. To that end, students will visit with banks and private equity firms to learn about international investing and how it differs between the two countries.

“We’re hoping to demonstrate that England has a more established sophisticated financial structure, while Poland is an example of one of the eastern European bloc countries moving into capitalism and still getting its structures into place,” Garstka said.

Stauderman said students were asked to travel to a location they had no prior experience with in order to learn how to manage in a foreign setting.

“Managers need to be able to solve problems with incomplete information and work in unfamiliar environments,” Stauderman said. “This helps them explore somewhere new and gives them the opportunity to decipher that new environment.”

Colecchia said the administration is currently focused on reaching out to alumni and faculty contacts in foreign countries, scheduling student visits, and risk management. Colecchia said students were asked earlier this month to rank their preferred trips from one through nine, and after some adjustments to the proposed list of trips every student got their first or second choice. Officials had anticipated greater interest in India and planned two trips there, but later cut one visit to India and fit in two more to South Africa and Tanzania, Colecchia said.

Colecchia said nine international students would be making a similar trip to New York and Boston because of student visa problems that would complicate reentry into the United States.

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