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Pamplin offers summer study-abroad programs

By Sookhan Ho

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 17 - January 22, 1998

The Pamplin College of Business is offering nine study-abroad programs next summer, more than in any previous year. The programs include one in Zimbabwe--the first one in Africa for the college--and a new in-residence course at the University of Freiburg in southwest Germany.
The college, which seeks to prepare its students for global challenges in business, offers four types of study abroad programs. One program is primarily in-residence at a single site, which may be a foreign university or Virginia Tech's own European Studies Center--where Pamplin offers a fall-semester, seven-class program in finance, management, and marketing.
Another program combines an in-residence period with a period of travel, while a third program comprises visits to universities and businesses in several locations as well as readings and lectures. Lastly, formal exchange programs, such as the one Virginia Tech established with Nanyang Technological University, give students the opportunity to spend one semester abroad.
The summer programs typically last about four weeks and offer six hours of course credit; the new program at Freiburg spans seven weeks and offers nine credits.
Philip Huang, professor of management science and information technology and chair of the college's International Programs Committee, said the programs are typically planned more than a year in advance. Faculty members who are interested in organizing a trip submit a proposal to the committee during the spring, make a planning trip in the summer, and receive final approval from the committee in the fall.
Associate Professor of Accounting Jim Yardley, for example, spent three weeks in Zimbabwe this past summer finalizing the design of his study-abroad course. The course, "Systems, Controls, Business, Government and Society in Southern Africa," will focus on business challenges and opportunities in a Third World culture. It will explore in depth two particular themes: the impact of culture on business organization, accounting information systems, and internal controls; and the importance to business of such factors as tax rates, supportive government policies, working telephones, reliable electricity, paved roads, ready markets, and an educated workforce.
Yardley met with accountants at Ernst and Young, KPMG, and Deloitte and Touche in Zimbabwe's capital of Harare. "They introduced me to clients and explained the local business climate and culture. With their help, a strong program has been designed."
His class will visit international accounting firms, multi-national companies, and private and government-owned companies in manufacturing and service industries. "Zimbabwe is in the process of privatizing several industries and we will visit some of them," Yardley said. "Tools to analyze systems will be taught and applied to Zimbabwean organizations." His students will also meet local lecturers, who will discuss Zimbabwe's government, economy, culture, accounting standards, and accounting profession.
There will be time, he says, for students to visit such cultural and natural attractions as Great Zimbabwe (site of the ancient Shona kingdom), Mutare Game park, Matobo National Park, and Victoria Falls. Although offered through the college, Yardley said his program is designed to appeal to students in a wide variety of disciplines.
Of the remaining programs next summer, five focus on Western Europe, while the other two offer study in Asia.
"Global Supply Chains" is the title of the course Philip Huang will teach in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The course will emphasize different practices of operations management in various joint ventures between Chinese and multi-national firms. Students will visit companies and industrial parks and participate in seminars with faculty members and students at universities in the three locations.
Marketing professor Jim Littlefield, a veteran study-abroad leader, will lead a program to China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam that will focus on the challenges and opportunities in business and society. The program, designed not only for business students but those in other disciplines, includes visits to factories, universities, and major historical and cultural attractions.
The in-residence program at Freiburg, "Business in the European Union," will be led by finance Department Head Dilip Shome. Students will learn about international financial markets and the institutions and political framework of the European Union. Besides Shome, two German faculty members who are experts on the European Union, will teach classes.
Accounting Professor Jim Hicks will lead a course, "European Information Technology." Students will study the development and application of information technology in leading Western European firms. Visiting such cities as London, Paris, Munich, and Bern, students will examine how firms export, work with international consortia, and make changes to accommodate the future common currency and harmonized macro-economic policies.
Students will also learn the skills necessary to travel by themselves in foreign countries, and will have the option of travelling independently for seven days after the faculty-led portion of the study.
Another European study program, "Accounting Harmonization in Western Europe," will be led by accounting Professor Konrad Kubin. Students will explore issues related to the introduction of a common currency and learn about accounting, auditing, and tax laws in the European Union. They will visit major cities and work with European students in joint-management teams.
Finance Professor John Pinkerton will lead two concurrent programs in "European Business Management," aimed at giving undergraduate and graduate students a better understanding of European business and culture. Students will visit about a dozen businesses, government agencies, and universities as well as cultural and historical institutions.
Each visit, Pinkerton says, has a "distinct instructional theme, ranging from managing projects across cultures, developing new products, managing international stock portfolios and trades, curtailing international money laundering, and the economic, cultural, and political issues influencing the global economy."
Management Professor Jerry Robinson, who has taken student groups abroad since 1989, will lead a course, "The Global Workplace: U.S. vs. Central/Eastern Europe." Students will first visit several businesses within the country in the spring. The international portion of the program will include trips to the European plants of multi-national companies in the automobile, electronics, chemical, and textile industries. Students will also visit recently privatized firms in Slovenia and meet with national trade-union leaders there and in Germany and Hungary.