|ISU receives $160,000 federal grant to expand Export Project|
|Written by Autumn McReynolds|
|Tuesday, 26 June 2007 18:00|
After beginning in 2005, the ISU Export Project will be able to expand further after receiving a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
According to Iris Varner, director of the International Business Program, the federal grant is for 160,000 dollars over a two-year period.
"The U.S. Department of Education decided to support this because it is very innovative. When we started looking at other schools, people would say they had similar programs, but there was not a single program that followed through and actually went into the market," Varner explained.
"I think this is huge for a number of reasons. One of them is both the College of Applied Science and Technology and the College of Business have been very supportive, so they have put up quite a bit of money to make this work. We obviously need the funding, so we hope this will give us the publicity to attract outside funding in addition to the grant," she continued.
According to Klaus Schmidt, associate professor of technology, the grant will help with many things, including travel expenses, identifying and finding companies and paying some faculty and student salaries involved.
"We don't want students to end up paying for their experience," he said.
Varner said the basic idea of the project is to take students majoring in international business, marketing, agriculture and technology and put together an interdisciplinary team to work with small to medium sized Illinois companies that are successful enough to export their products but have not done it yet.
"Students will meet with these companies, learn about the company and the product, learn about the goals of the company and prepare a report that is kind of the environment of doing business in the country they are interested in going to," Varner explained. "At the end of this, the students go to the country for four weeks to meet with distributors, meet with government officials, look at the distribution system, go to stores to see how things are arranged,and meet with U.S, representatives from the Department of Commerce to get some insight. Based on that, they prepare this report for the company that should help them to start exporting." According to Varner, the Export Project began after she spoke with Peter Kaufman, assistant professor of marketing.
"He had done something similar as a graduate student and I had worked with MBA students on a similar project. We continued talking about it and pulled some other people into the group," Varner said.
So far, the Export Project teams have been on three trips to two countries. Varner took a group to New Zealand last year, and Mark Hoelscher, director of the College of Business Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, took another this year.
"They work with a small company that uses ethanol co-products. When they produce the ethanol, they use a byproduct called DDG. The small company makes composite products out of that," Varner explained.
"It could replace steel or aluminum, highway signs and more. Then, there is a company in New Zealand that puts radio frequency identifiers into those products."
Added this year was a trip to Germany looking at marketing potential for a small company out of Bloomington-Normal called FranMar Chemicals.
Schmidt recently returned from this trip, although the student team members are still overseas.
"I took three students to Germany for a little less than a month because FranMar is trying to export their products to the European Union," Schmidt said. "We had to learn about the European Union distribution system and about their import/export policies that need to be understood by American exporters."
According to Varner, the team's next destination will depend on the products that the companies they work with have and the people within the team.
"We would like to have every time at least one student that speaks the language, so that can limit things pretty fast," Varner said. "The first year, we selected the students. This past year, it was an open process.
The companies were involved, as well as the professors, in picking who went, so it is competitive and will continue to be."
With help from the grant, as well as the companies and outside funding, the Export Project will continue to provide unique and educational experiences for both students and faculty.
"It was a great experience. On the trip [to Germany] the students learned a lot about how to do business in Europe and how business meetings are different from American business meetings," Schmidt said.
"This was surprising to me because I am from Europe, and what they observed was so very insightful. I learned as much as a professor as much as they did as students."