Beginning this fall, students at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management are required to have an international experience before they can graduate. The reason: The business world is becoming more global. While international programs are often included in M.B.A. programs, the U’s requirement for undergraduate travel is unique among public universities. Currently, about 46 percent of Carlson School undergrads study abroad, but the new requirement will send nearly all of them to the far corners of the world in pursuit of a four-year degree.
By interning abroad, students immerse themselves in the business and culture of another country and get a taste of what it takes to compete in the global economy. That sits well with Michael Houston, the Carlson School’s associate dean of international programs.
“Some students may say, ‘I don’t need international experience. I want to take over mom and pop’s furniture store,” he says. “My response is: ‘What if IKEA moves in next door?’ If you have an understanding of how the global economy works, then you are better able to deal with foreign competition even if you never again set foot outside the state.”
Carlson students will have no trouble fulfilling the new requirement. The school, one of the top 20 public business schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, is expanding its already numerous and varied offerings for both undergrads and graduate students who want to study or work abroad. In addition to traditional study-abroad programs, students can choose a short-term program between semesters or take a course that includes a foreign component. (See a global map of Carlson’s international programs.) The school also plans to raise scholarships to help students meet the international requirement and graduate in four years.
“Some students may say, ‘I don’t need international experience. I want to take over mom and pop’s furniture store,” he says. “My response is: ‘What if IKEA moves in next door?’ “
“We have students from small towns, ones who’ve traveled abroad, and others who have worked with immigrant communities,” says Anne D’Angelo King, Carlson’s assistant dean of international programs. “The Carlson School already has and is meeting a global mission. This [requirement] solidifies it.”
According to D’Angelo King, students who come to the U from another country are not subject to the requirement but can participate if they wish. “We want to recognize the fact that students on F1 visas are in the United States as their international experience,” she explains, “but did not want to exclude these students if they would like to have another opportunity.”
Carlson School students have already responded enthusiastically to the new requirement, recognizing that even a short time overseas can greatly enrich their perspective.
“When I first arrived in Paris for my connecting flight to Copenhagen I was so scared,” says Abbey Hallberg who chose the business exchange program to Denmark. “It was the farthest I had ever been from home.
“[Now] I cannot stress enough how the experience of living in Copenhagen for a semester has contributed to my professional and personal development. I feel like I can go anywhere I want and achieve anything I set out to do.”