As part of the School of Management’s ongoing student-led movement to make international involvement a significant part of its evolving curriculum, students presented information to their peers about their internship experiences on a spring break trip to Madagascar at a panel on Thursday.
Four teams of five students each presented summaries of the consulting work they performed with Malagasy companies and nonprofits before displaying a slideshow of photographs from their trip. Students and faculty said the presentations, which were attended by nearly 60 students, are an example of the strong interest at SOM in international experiences as part of the management education the school provides.
SOM Dean Joel Podolny said the school has seen a gradual evolution in the underlying impetus for students organizing trips abroad.
“While these trips began several years ago as almost entirely student-initiated, we have been increasingly integrating them into the curriculum, with more trips involving faculty members and more involving course credit,” Podolny said in an e-mail.
The Madagascar trip was only one of a number of international trips planned and organized by SOM students this year, along with similar trips to China, India and South Africa. International work experience has been proposed as a component of SOM’s recently redeveloped core curriculum, which will be implemented this fall.
“The integration of an international experience into the new core curriculum represent the next step in connecting international trips with our pedagogical objectives and our mission,” Podolny said.
Caroline Tsai SOM ’06, a student leader on the Madagascar trip, said the trips have become increasingly important as the school’s administration views them as pilot programs for the new curriculum’s international experience component.
“Trips like these give students the change to explore unusual areas that interest them, places that require a certain amount of infrastructure to visit,” Tsai said. “Going to a developing country is something students tend not to do alone because it’s significantly more challenging.”
Kim Barry SOM ’06, Tsai’s co-leader, said she, like the student leaders of many other SOM break trips, was responsible for such tasks as identifying the trip’s location, networking to find contact organizations in the area, and securing funding. She said student leaders generally also arranged airfare, hotel reservations and vaccinations for the group, and some — like those in the Madagascar group — worked with SOM administrators to design a course to be taken in conjunction with the trip.
SOM professor Nat Keohane, who advised but did not attend the trip, said the projects are a credit to students’ initiative and that institutionalizing the trips would likely detract from student leadership in planning trips.
“The students did all of the work in preparing and overseeing the course and the trip and got only institutional support,” Keohane said. “Trips like this may be taking on a more formal cast in the future, but I think there’s a lot to be said for this way of allowing programs to be student-determined and allowing students to drive the process.”
SOM professor Zhiwu Chen, who advised a similar annual trip to China during the past three years, said Podolny has made a major effort to internationalize the school’s MBA curriculum.
“It’s a very valuable experience not just to learn what’s happening in China and what models work better in an emerging market context, but to have that on-site experience and interact with business leaders,” Chen said.
Chen, who is also organizing this weekend’s China Industry Conference at SOM, said the school faculty’s contacts abroad have been instrumental in bringing scholars, corporate executives and economic policy advisors to Yale to speak on these international issues.
Lauren Skryzowski SOM ’06, who led a break trip to India this spring, said these trips are part of a larger trend towards training global leaders with a more internationalized perspective.
“We’re really all awakening to the fact that we live in a global society,” Skryzowski said. “We’ve been hearing about globalization for the past five to 10 years, but now it matters in a way no one ever realized before.”
Skryzowski said even those students who do not participate in the trips have benefited from the information and contacts their classmates have brought back to the school.
“Students are developing more of an interest in working abroad, even after graduation,” Skrysowski said of her class. “I don’t remember this sense of enthusiasm in the class before us. We’re building on prior classes’ projects, but I think we’ve done a lot to bolster the interest students have in going abroad.”