I love Ann Arbor, but my favorite part of college took place about 2,200 miles away from the Diag, the Big House and Rick’s. I had wanted to study abroad since high school, and in May 2008, I went to Costa Rica as part of the Ross School of Business’s three-week study abroad program.
Even though the trip was everything I could have hoped for, Costa Rica was never one of the places where I had been itching to live and learn about international business. But I went to Alajuela because as a Ross student, my options for study abroad were limited to just three locations.
Rankings show that Ross is one of the best business schools in the nation. (The 2010 U.S. News rankings have us ranked fourth, which is a disappointment after being ranked third for years.) But in terms of pushing students to learn more about global economies and international business issues, it’s clear Ross isn’t even at the top of the Big Ten — and that’s ridiculous.
There are a lot of reasons why business school students can’t just leave Ann Arbor for a semester like many of our LSA counterparts, BBA Program Director Scott Moore explained to me. The biggest is the school’s sequential structuring, where every core class (for example, Marketing 300) has to be taken during a certain semester (first semester, junior year). Even though I understand the need for prerequisites, the strict scheduling for every single class — like being required to take marketing a year after accounting, even though the classes aren’t related whatsoever — unnecessarily limits students’ study abroad opportunities.
Moore also raised the point that with on-campus internship recruiting during junior year and full-time recruiting during senior year, it would disadvantage Business School students to travel during those years unless they had jobs lined up before leaving.
It’s also almost impossible to get Business School credit for non-Ross study abroad programs, and the only sponsored programs for credit are the three-week trips to Costa Rica, Germany/Slovakia and China. That means that if students want to go abroad during the school year and join an LSA program, they will probably end up staying at the University an extra semester or two to make up for lost credits.
The way I see it, though, most of those issues are just logistics, things that the Business School administration could work around or change — if it wanted to. But with an intense focus on job placement and moving up that rankings ladder, the real problem is that promoting study abroad opportunities just isn’t high on the priority list.
In my internship last summer, working for a multinational company, it didn’t take long for me to wish I had the same international opportunities as fellow interns from other business schools. Two of the girls I met on the first day, one from Purdue and one from Indiana, had returned from semester-long trips to Spain less than a week before.
My friend from Indiana’s Kelley School of Business worked 11 hours per week at an internship and also earned 12 business school credits taking classes like International Operations and International Marketing. Now, with a full-time job offer in hand, she says our summer internship “felt like a breeze” after working in Spain because she had already learned how to handle herself in an unfamiliar business setting, where she had often felt lost and confused because of the culture differences.
Michigan should take a few lessons from Indiana’s business program. Kelley has an “International Dimension” requirement, for which students need to take a minimum of six credits in international business classes or study abroad classes. Ross doesn’t have anything close to that. (The foreign language distribution requirement doesn’t count — I learned nothing about Spanish business while sitting in the MLB as a freshman.)
To be fair, Ross is trying to catch up. Moore estimated 80 to 100 students this year have signed up for the three-week summer study abroad programs. And while talking with Leslie Davis and Vicki Simon from the Ross School of Business’s Center for International Business Education, I learned about interesting options I didn’t know existed, like CIBE-funded international summer internships and the fact that business students with international studies minors receive up to $750 in funding toward the three-week study abroad programs.
But for Ross students who truly want to immerse themselves in another country’s business culture, three weeks just doesn’t cut it. The fact that I didn’t know about the other CIBE options — even though I’ve studied abroad once already and have been in the school for three years — means that a lot of other students probably don’t either. And that’s where Ross falls far below the elite standards it has set for itself.
It’s obvious that the world is becoming flatter every day, as Thomas L. Friedman detailed in his book of a similar name. Every business school student knows that — we had to read the book for our Business Information Technology core class, after all. But compared to other schools, Ross doesn’t encourage us to get out there and experience that flat world. If Ross took the time and energy to make international studies a graduation requirement, maybe we’d be graduating from one of the premier business schools with a little more knowledge of what goes on outside of just Ann Arbor and Wall Street.
Courtney Ratkowiak was the Daily’s managing editor in 2009. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.