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‘U’ to require business school students to study abroad

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Freshman who enter the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management next fall will need more than a backpack full of school supplies.

They’re also going to need a passport.

The university announced Monday that starting next fall, students who enter the business school will be required to have an international experience before they can graduate.

"We have been hearing from employers for some time that the ability to operate internationally is an important skill," said Alison Davis-Blake, the school’s dean.

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While international programs are often included in M.B.A. programs, requiring undergraduates to travel is unique, university officials said.

Students will have several ways they can fulfill the requirement. In addition to traditional study-abroad programs, they can choose a short-term program between semesters or take a course that includes a foreign component.

"They can do it for two weeks in January; they can do it around their spring break," Davis-Blake said. "They might have to give up their Mexican vacation, but not their summer job. Their summer job might be abroad. We’re being very bold in trying to give our students a leg up for employment after they’re done."

Short-term program costs currently range from $3,750 to $4,800, which includes travel, lodging and some meals. Semesters abroad can cost $1,000 to $5,000 more than the standard tuition for that span. Davis-Blake said administrators will help seek funding for scholarships for foreign experiences.

The Carlson school currently serves about 1,800 undergraduates. That number is expected to expand by about 50 percent when a new building opens next fall.

Kevin Upton was part of the faculty group that pushed foreign experience as a requirement for graduation to make sure that students — a majority of whom are Minnesotans — understand that global business is a reality.

"What can we do to get our students out of the country and give them a broader perspective outside of the 494/694 loop?" Upton said.

For the past three years, he has taught a marketing class that spends two weeks in France at the end of the school year. And a group of accounting students travel to Argentina each January to learn about business there.

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"It opens their eyes to things they hadn’t thought about," Upton said. "This past year, we did a corporate visit at L’Oreal in Paris and the students afterwards were all sort of embarrassed to discover that executives and every young marketing person that they talked to spoke at least three languages.

"This is one of those shocking things we were hoping to achieve with American kids, hopefully knocking them out of their complacency. And it worked."

Molly Doyle was among the group of students who traveled to Paris and Bordeaux, France.

"It was great for me," Doyle said. "I learned marketing, but more importantly, I learned about how business works in other parts of the world."

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