International Perspective

By Carrie E. McCullough

Preparing her students for success inspires Dr. Sara Jackson, assistant professor of international business in the H-E-B School of Business and Administration. And what better way to teach about international business than to show students first-hand.

International business professor Sara Jackson's students made a trip to the Zweibruecken City Hall.

Meeting the mayor of Zweibruecken, Germany...

Hanging out with the German students from UIW sister school, the Fachhochschule Zweibruecken...

City tour of Heidelberg, Germany...

At the Audi factory...

2008 International Policies and Relations class...

Jackson, who has taught almost every business major for the past seven years in her required international business class, set her sights on securing a Business & International Education (BIE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. After securing the grant, UIW matched the amount dollar-for-dollar, resulting in a grand total of about $340,000.

During the first project sponsored by the grant in May 2007, the students studied similarities between San Antonio, Texas, and Regensburg, Germany. Both areas experienced economic changes after the introduction of a major car-manufacturing plant. For Regensburg, it was BMW in 1992, and for San Antonio, it was Toyota, established more than 10 years later in 2006.

“One economic question was how this would affect San Antonio,” Jackson said. She said it seemed a good fit to have this as a focus project for the grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

In May of this year, the BIE grant funds allowed Jackson and nine students to travel to Germany to complete the final project of their International Policies and Relations class for 10 days. With the growing necessity of understanding the world of business at an international level, the trip provided students an exceptional opportunity to advance their skills and their appreciation of diversity. The group spent five days with German students from UIW sister school, the Fachhochschule Zweibruecken. The other five days were used to visit the German Stock Exchange, the EU Court of Justice, IBM, and even the Mercedes Museum. All of these business destinations were arranged by the travel department of Schiller International University, also a sister university of UIW.

“We had the opportunity to visit the Audi factory and the students saw all of the robotics – they had never seen anything like that before,” Jackson said.

The joint project with the German students was a comparison study about customer service management in the U.S. and Germany. “It was successful beyond my wildest dreams,” Jackson reflected, emphasizing that the work between UIW students and German students was the most important aspect of the trip.

The culture differences the students experienced, Jackson said, will help them in the work force. Even if they never leave the United States again, she explained, the students likely will encounter co-workers from other countries and cultures. It is Jackson’s hope that this trip to Germany will give the students perspective when handling situations involving diversity in the work force.

In addition to the warm welcome UIW students and faculty received from the German universities, they received a unique meeting with a government official.

“We were invited by the mayor of Zweibruecken who had been a professor at the university we were visiting. He gave us a history of the town and his philosophy of marketing,” Jackson said.

Reflecting on the benefits gained by UIW students, Jackson pointed toward the interactions they wouldn’t have experienced during a vacation to Germany.

“They saw how different the other students lived, what their priorities are and how they differ. But they also saw how similar they are,” Jackson noted.

“I would recommend this experience to any student because it really opens your eyes to how diverse the world is,” senior Jennifer Beck said.

“I was able to really learn about the German culture, much more so than if I would have simply gone on vacation,” remarked Beck, one of the nine students who participated. “We were able to interact with German students for several days and experience what a normal day at school is like for them. We were also able to go out with them in the evening and see what a normal night out is like for them.”

With this positive experience as incentive, Jackson already is writing another grant proposal, this time with China as the destination.