Preparing Minds for a Connected World

Preparing Minds for a Connected World
Ben Stevenson, Class of 2006, is based in Chicago as a specialist for global account operations and inside sales support for the New York corporate offices of Nippon Express, a Japanese logistics company.

As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, the fabric of the learning community is taking on a new look at colleges and universities across the nation. Whether the college graduates of today and tomorrow follow career paths that take them into business, science, education, health care, public service or any of the hundreds of other professions, it is clear that they will have to prepare for working and living in a world that has rapidly become interdependent.

“We believe that assisting students in developing a global perspective is one of the most important things we can do to help them succeed professionally and personally in the 21st century,” says Dr. David Evans, vice present for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “Higher education is abdicating one of its crucial responsibilities if it doesn’t provide opportunities for students to travel with purpose, to study different people and cultures, and to develop at least a basic understanding of the challenges posed by our shrinking world.”

Buena Vista University has been designing programs and projects that are creating more opportunities for students to enhance their global awareness, says Evans. In 2010, they restructured the first-year seminar program to include a heavy emphasis on globalization. BVU’s strategic plan has also created several initiatives to enhance global awareness across the campus community. One initiative offers increased support for students who want to study abroad through development of relationships that allow prospective teachers to complete part of their student teaching in international locations.

In the classroom, BVU’s curriculum has a long history of international programs dating back more than 30 years, says Dr. Mary Gill, associate dean of faculty.

“There are courses and programs which are intentionally international in focus, such as various language and literature courses, culture classes and study-abroad and travel courses during our January interim,” she explains.

Probably the most intensive international experience offered at BVU is the study-abroad program, where students spend a semester, or a full year, immersed in the culture of another country as they take college classes, student teach or participate in internships. The study abroad program has taken students to such countries as Japan, South Africa, China, Kenya, Spain, Greece, Wales, England, Austria, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Brazil and Russia.

Typically, around 12 students a year participate in study abroad, says Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, professor of history and study-abroad coordinator.

“Through these experiences, our students grow in so many ways and learn more about themselves,” she says. “They learn to be self sufficient and to rely on their mental stamina and inner reserves. They discover what it is to be a global citizen and why that is so important.”

The career of Ben Stevenson, Class of 2006, could be a case study for how academic opportunities and foreign travel experiences at BVU can prepare students for a success in international business. Today, Ben is based in Chicago as a specialist for global account operations and inside sales support for the New York corporate offices of Nippon Express, a Japanese logistics company.

As a student majoring in international business at BVU, with a minor in Japanese language, Ben had his sights set on a career with an international company. He studied the fall semester of his sophomore year in Sapporo, Japan through the exchange program with Hokusei University. His junior year, he did a one-week mission trip to Japan sponsored by the BVU spiritual life program. The fall semester of his senior year, Ben studied in Tokyo at Temple University (Japan campus).

“BVU provided me with a very diverse education,” he says. “Aside from my studies abroad and international travel, the campus was filled with valuable learning tools and opportunities — easy access to information, foreign language opportunities and professors who challenge you to think for yourself.”