Kathryn Stein ’10 was determined her college experience would incorporate her love of Spanish and her desire to gain the skills needed to tap into a growing segment of the economy.
“When I saw that Stonehill had an international business major and a great foreign-language department that really emphasized study abroad and immersion programs, I knew it was the perfect combination,” said Kathryn, who majored in international business and Spanish.
During her time at Stonehill, she studied abroad in Granada, Spain, and then returned to Granada after graduation to spend a year teaching English to middle schoolers. Originally from Ellington, Connecticut, she now works as an inventory and theme analyst in the merchandising department of the global company LEGO.
“Working with kids in a different culture came in handy,” said Kathryn, whose position at LEGO requires a global perspective and an insight into children’s likes and dislikes. Those skills and the insights she gained as an international business major form an important foundation for her daily work at LEGO.
“If you can’t collaborate, if you can’t work with other people who have different views and skill sets, you’re going to have a challenging time,” she said. “Companies require those skills. They are looking for a cultural fit as well as business attributes and love to see an international experience on your resume. It shows you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone, you want to learn and you want to be an international team player.”
Interdisciplinary approach produces well-rounded students
International business is one of five majors in Stonehill’s Business Administration Department, which is among the small percentage of undergraduate business programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The major is interdisciplinary, melding classes in business disciplines and liberal arts courses such as Intercultural Communications and Cultural Anthropology.
The curriculum arms students with a broad base of knowledge and experiences that serve them well in the globally competitive economy.
“This type of major is attractive to multinational companies,” said Jennifer Swanson, international business program director. “These students have a curiosity about other countries and an appreciation of how our country deals with other countries.”
Swanson recommends that if students have a specific area of business they’re interested in, it is best to specialize.
For Sarah Kozsan ’14, of Hollis, New Hampshire, the international business major — which she combined with a major in dual languages — meant she could tailor her coursework to pursue marketing with a global focus.
“It gave me a leg up when competing for jobs,” said Sarah, who is now a media analyst in Boston and plans to start an MBA program at Boston University this fall. “I think of marketing in a different way than someone who doesn’t have as holistic a view.”
Students step outside comfort zone during abroad experience
International business students at Stonehill are required to have at least one international experience through study abroad, an international internship or a foreign language immersion experience. Students must also show proficiency in a foreign language.
“They don’t know what they don’t know until they go abroad,” said Swanson. “Students understand their culture in a different way after they study abroad. Even short-term travel has a profound effect on your self-confidence, identity and cultural nuances.”
Swanson encourages her students to intern abroad, if possible, because it can give them another new perspective. Will Caras ’18 studied and interned abroad in both London and Mendoza, Argentina.
“These were two completely different experiences, but they both taught me a lot,” said the Saco, Maine, native and Spanish minor. “It’s important to work in another country to better understand what it’s like to be an American. I gained self-awareness, confidence and time-management skills.”
Cultural relativism increasingly important as companies globalize
A major in international business is becoming increasingly more relevant as companies expand.
“The world is getting more global,” said Kathryn. “You’re constantly hearing about companies that are expanding, that are merging and that are trying to get into new markets.”
In our current political climate, shifting global trade policies are affecting tariffs and ongoing trade disputes with countries such as China. Swanson says current events can make for excellent class discussions.
Whether or not current events will affect the number of students majoring in international business is yet to be seen, but current students note having a global perspective is always a good idea.
“Combining business and knowing a different language, you can always take those skills and continue to grow,” said Will.
“It’s a global world and you need to know something about it as well as have that appreciation for other cultures and not be ethnocentric,” said Swanson. “You need to be open to that because chances are, any place you work, there’s going to be some sort of global component, wherever it might be within your organization.”