Economists often characterize events that rock financial markets as either “heat waves” or “meteor showers.” The former is regional—a weather event that disrupts trade or slows commerce in a confined area.
In contrast, “meteor showers” are wide-spread, global events, creating long-term disruptions for international supply chains and economic systems. Now, a dozen weeks into the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, we are all perhaps more familiar with metaphorical meteor showers than any of us would like to be.
As I noted in my previous Desk of the Dean column, the effects of this crisis have brought into stark relief the ways we will need to approach business education going forward. The need for a global perspective on business is more imperative than ever. The way we provide that global perspective for our students will likely change—and that change is reflected in a new approach we’ll soon introduce for Olin undergraduates.
A global school—in the heart of the US
Since arriving at Olin, I’ve been keen to ensure 100% of WashU Olin students have a global experience. We took an extraordinary step forward for MBAs in 2019 by launching our three-continent global immersion.
Undergraduates starting in the fall of 2021 will benefit from our latest innovation: a “global mindset” degree requirement for Olin BSBA students, a framework designed to ensure every undergraduate can gain international business experience—whether or not they travel abroad.
Paige LaRose, associate dean and director of undergraduate programs, spent more than a year spearheading the planning for this new degree requirement, which faculty approved on February 10. She has been tremendously skilled at navigating the barriers to implementing such a requirement.
To be sure, a high percentage of our undergraduate students already participate in global experiences through Olin’s comprehensive menu of more than 20 programs including study abroad, international internships and experiential learning projects. More than 60% of BSBA students go abroad as part of their business school experience.
Accommodating various needs
For many students, traveling abroad is not an easy task. Health concerns, student athletics and other issues present challenges, we must acknowledge, that some students cannot overcome. Indeed, our approach perhaps anticipates concerns the pandemic has wrought, while still stressing the importance of that global perspective.
“It’s really about the difference between having a global experience and gaining a global mindset,” Paige explains. “What’s the learning outcome? At graduation time, what sort of competency do we hope our BSBA grads have?”
Focusing on forging a global mindset for our students opened opportunities for us to accommodate students for whom traveling abroad was impossible or inadvisable. Options include independent study coursework focused on global business issues, credit-bearing independent research, and a second major or a minor in a foreign language.
The variety of options fall into two categories: One focuses on academic and professional exposure to global business issues. The other exposes students to global cultures, people or philosophies through volunteerism with immigrant communities, experiential learning projects or new courses still in development.
“There was a recognition that we had to do more,” Paige said. “We had to do more to promote a global mindset. We’re just doing it in some innovative ways.”