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September 28, 2021
Kenan-Flagler Business School
Ariel shot of Kenan-Flagler Business School

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

COVID-19 prevented students from studying abroad in early 2020, but it didn’t stop their learning and connecting across the globe.

The global program teams for the Undergraduate Business Program (UBP) and MBA Programs developed innovative avenues to continue students’ global education that didn’t involve travel.

“While many business schools didn’t offer their students global experiences in 2020-21 because of COVID-19, we deepened our commitment to our students’ global experiential learning,” says Valerie Slate, senior associate director of MBA global programs.

“The need to learn about the world and better understand others has never been greater,” says Angela Bond (BA ’95, MBA ’04), UBP director of global programs. “We have to determine how best to continue providing global educational experiences given the challenge of COVID. We know that participating in international educational experiences, virtual or in-country, prepares students to work across borders to create and implement solutions to global issues.”

So instead of cancelling the popular Global Immersion Electives (GIEs) in 2021, the global teams created virtual translations. Dubbed Virtual GIEs (V/GIEs), they included the typical cultural, community, projects and meetings with business people.

“The V/GIE is a unique way to experience culture, develop global competencies, engage with business leaders, and build community as a class,” says Slate.

“Students couldn’t get those first-hand experiences that travel provides, but could still ‘visit’ and learn, see and listen,” says Bond.

On the V/GIEs, students engaged with local business leaders, entrepreneurs, government officials and experts. They participated in project-based work with local companies to solve real-world challenges. And worked with students in Kenya, South Africa and Hungary.

They engaged in interactive cultural experiences such as live cooking workshops, live guided tours, Zen meditation session with a monk in rural Japan, vodka tasting while learning about the history and industry’s importance to Russia and so much more.

“The global engagement continued,” says Slate. “All that stopped was travel.”

The students and the global program teams miss the travel component of GIEs, as do the professors who lead them. Arv Malhotra, H. Allen Andrew Professor of Entrepreneurial Education and professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, has led GIEs for more than 16 years. Seeing the world with his students is good for his soul, he says. “It teaches me as much as it teaches them.”

Instead in 2021, he taught a new VGIE on innovation and entrepreneurship in Russia and Estonia, and continued to teach the Global Business Strategy course for MBAs on strategy formulation and implementation in an international context.

The range of VGIEs was wide and also included healthcare in Thailand and Japan led by Markus Saba; global entrepreneurship in Luxembourg and Denmark led by Ted Zoller; and business and culture in Costa Rica, Argentina and Chile led by Anna Hayes.

Learning beyond borders

Global education builds students’ self-awareness, communication skills, resiliency and flexibility. The virtual experiences also challenged students and moved them out of their comfort zones, influenced many to consider job-searches in the countries of the VGIE’s, and 100% enhanced their networks.

Read about a few highlights of the VGIEs here.

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