|Export Project gives students hands-on international experience|
|Written by Brandon James Smith, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 01 September 2009 20:49|
When Dr. Peter Kaufman discusses ISU’s Export Project, he does so with passion and excitement.
“It’s extremely enriching to me in broadening my understanding of different cultures and it’s really a very good opportunity for me personally,” Kaufman, an ISU marketing professor, said.
Kaufman has plenty to be excited about as the Export Project gives him, his colleagues and select ISU students a chance to work on business while travelling around the world.
This past summer, 14 students, 12 undergraduates and two graduates, along with five faculty members traveled to China, India and Poland. The project allowed students and faculty to assist local businesses in marketing their products to international companies.
The Export Project worked with five companies in total. Two teams were sent to China, two to India and one to Poland. A faculty member headed each team, including Kauffman, who led a team in China.
“China is a country that is going through enormous social, economic, cultural change. It’s an extremely dynamic economy and it is very important for people in the United States to be more knowledgeable about the country because it is becoming such an important global power,” he said.
Students were drawn from marketing, entrepreneurship, international business, agribusiness, food science and technology majors.
“We had a project in China to research the airfilter market,” Kaufman said. “We selected a student each from international business, technology and marketing. The student from technology had recently had a class on heating and cooling which was very helpful to the project while the students from marketing and international business helped with understanding the market side.”
Cort Darby, a recent graduate in industrial technology, was one of those students.
“You have to cope with your environment when you’re going to a different country. You’re out of your norm and comfort zone and when you’re in a meeting you have to be able to adjust and be able to read people,” Darby said.
The Export Project was started in 2007 with a pilot project to Germany. A local Bloomington business named FranMar was the lone participating company. By 2008, the program had two companies for a project in Argentina, with five companies this year.
Companies are picked in a variety of ways. Some that have taken ISU interns for traditional domestic internships before are well known by participating faculty. State economic development officials have expressed interest in exporting and identifying other companies and some have already had success exporting and wish to expand their presence abroad.
There will be at least three companies involved with next year’s project. One of those companies, Brandt, which is out of Springfield, is looking to market their company in Eastern Europe. Kaufman says at least 12 students will be needed and encourages students to jump at the chance for next year’s project.
“We’re looking for seniors or graduate students from business, agriculture or technology [departments] that are good students, motivated students and very interested in international markets,” he said.
Without a doubt the opportunity to travel abroad for students is a valued one. For the Export Project, not only do students receive college credit, visit other countries and build a resume, but they get to truly see how international business is done, right in front of them.
“What I brought from it is learning to be flexible in all situations, learning to be able to make quick decisions and ask the right questions and draw information from the business stand point,” Darby said.
Darby also had some wise words for current ISU students.
“This project is perfect. Not only do they teach you what you need to know before you go abroad, but once you’re abroad you have professors with you that assist you with any difficulties you might have. From there you can use that experience to make yourself a more marketable person once you’re going out to the real world. I highly recommend it to any future students.”
Kaufman is dedicated to company outreach and support partner development. However, he alone could not run the Export Project. The project is also facilitated with help from business professors Iris Varner and Mark Hoelscher, technology professor Klaus Schmidt and agriculture professor Aslihan Spaulding.
“We try to approach and preprepare for company projects much like like companies would by fielding the best team and identifying the best resources to get the job done, no excuses,” Kaufman said. “I do not know of any universities in the world that do what we do and I’ve researched many, many different university foreign study programs.
“I benefit, first and foremost, through my experience with the project and I actually spend a great deal of time after I come back from these trips, plowing a lot of my knowledge, pictures and experiences into my classes,” he added.