Business Not as Usual
International Business Program
By Leigh Brown Perkins
It wasn’t just clever marketing, like splashing “new and improved” on the same old bottle of soda. Back in the mid-’90s when the College redesigned its undergraduate business program to become the International Business program, there was real, lasting modernization at work.
From the start of its new era, the International Business program (INB) has been everything its label says and more: it’s all international, all business—and all liberal arts.
• Percentage of INB students who choose Spanish as their second language: 80
• Percentage of INB students who study abroad: 100
• Percentage of INB students who complete an international internship: 100
According to Professor of International Business Don Rogers, who helped develop the program, the goal was to give students the kind of business skills only a liberal arts education can provide: problem solving, critical thinking, social responsibility, leadership, and adaptability. So no class is an island; each one is grounded in the concept of global business, each one linked to the larger principles of that liberal education.
In a typical business program, a student would start with principles of marketing, moving methodically on to marketing management and marketing strategy, and then, maybe two-thirds of the way through the program, a stand-alone international business course. At Rollins, Professor of International Business Cecelia McInnis-Bowers must weave all of that marketing into a single class, within the global context. “That’s a tall order,” she said. “When a student is required to devote three hours of class time for every one credit hour of a course, and our courses are four credit hours, these students are working at their maximum. It’s not unusual for them to spend 12 to 16 hours a week out of class to master this content.”
At the heart of all that content is the concept of cultural competency. “We focus on students being able to recognize the different value sets that occur as you cross borders,” McInnis-Bowers said. “It’s not just about crossing borders, but crossing values.”
To do that, students must be moved to a place of broader understanding, she said. And she means “moved” in the literal sense: Every INB major is required to study abroad and must complete an international internship before graduating.
INB student Kaitlin Webster ’11 did both in Costa Rica. She completed a two-week class that taught her about small business and entrepreneurship in the Central American country, then stayed for a six-week internship at the U.S. Department of Trade and Commerce in San Jose. “I loved every second of it,” she said. “I learned so much about market research and making connections with people. It was such a successful experience for me.”
The overseas requirement is rare in undergraduate business programs, as is INB’s required language competency. Students must meet its four-course upper-level language requirement to graduate, no exceptions.
“There are so many opportunities to study language with courses in culture and literature and film,” McInnis-Bowers said. “It moves them well beyond the basics of simple vocabulary to intellectually inform them about the structure and values of other societies.”
Webster, who was fluent in French when she arrived at Rollins, now also is fluent in Spanish, which has given her considerable confidence as she enters the workforce. “I consider the INB degree from Rollins to be superior to a degree from a very focused program in marketing or finance,” she said. “It’s much more holistic and gives you the skills to synthesize a lot of concepts at once. So far, employers seem really excited to get a résumé with the words ‘international business’ on it. A lot of my friends with more specialized degrees feel forced to go to graduate school. But I’m ready to build a career.”