By Ed Brennen
Robert Taschner will never forget his final undergraduate course in the Manning School of Business. Not because it’s all that stood between himself and his bachelor of science in business administration, but because it changed the way he views the world.
“I had a narrow scope coming into the course, but this really widened my perspective,” Taschner said after completing the two-week Global Entrepreneurship Exchange (GE2) program this summer with 60 visiting students and faculty from India, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Japan. “This was a great way to finish a fantastic time here at UMass Lowell.”
Since its inception in 2014, more than 820 students from 16 countries have participated in the award-winning GE2 program, either abroad in India or China or here on campus. Led by senior lecturer Ashwin Mehta, the three-credit course is designed to help students understand the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in today’s global economy and to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset among Manning School students.
This summer featured three sessions — one in China and two at UML. In June, Mehta and lecturer Joan Crooker traveled with 11 Manning School students to Nanjing, China, where they collaborated with 37 students from Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications and KLE Technological University (in Hubli, India).
“We learned about a business plan, innovation and entrepreneurship in class, and we learned so much more from each other,” Stephanie Cannata, who completed her business administration degree this summer, blogged about her experience in China. “This opportunity allowed me to take a huge step out of my comfort zone and become completely immersed in a culture so rich.”
In July, the two sessions on campus attracted a total of 110 students from 11 countries, including 16 students from UML. The first session consisted of undergraduate and graduate students from India, China, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar and UML, while the second session included primarily graduate students from China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Nigeria, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Guyana, Algeria and UML.
During a meet-and-greet with program participants at University Crossing, Chancellor Jacquie Moloney noted the “buzz of energy” that the international guests brought to campus.
“As a university, one of our cornerstones is a commitment to global engagement, and Professor Mehta has taken that to a new level with this program,” said Moloney, who also thanked Vice Provost for Innovation and Workforce Development Steve Tello and Entrepreneurial Initiatives Project Director Holly Butler for their work with the GE2 program. “To be successful today, you have to have that entrepreneurial mindset, and that’s something we value here at the university.”
Manning School Dean Sandra Richtermeyer, who awarded certificates at the completion of the program, thanked Mehta and all his fellow faculty members who have “provided this amazing learning experience for our students.”
In addition to classes, lectures, team-building activities and group project work, the program included business visits to MKS Instruments in Methuen and the iHub. Students also had a chance to catch a Red Sox game, take a whale watch cruise and try their hand at bowling.
With another session in India on tap this winter, Mehta said the program is continuing to grow. “We are adding more countries and institutions each year,” said Mehta, who noted that schools in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Guyana have expressed interest in hosting workshops.
For students like Taschner, who came to the Manning School in 2015 after earning his associate degree from Middlesex Community College, that means even more opportunities for global engagement.
Working with two students from Myanmar and another from India, Taschner’s group developed a business plan for something they called “Uni Connect,” a mobile platform targeted for the Asian market that helps students and faculty communicate with one another.
“It was great to work with people from other cultures and learn how they view the world. I definitely look at problems differently now,” said Taschner, who recently moved with his wife to Athol, Mass., and plans to use his new degree to start his own business.
“There are no more local economies — it’s an international world,” the Lynnfield, Mass., native said. “If you’re going to make a mark in business, you have to reach out globally and connect with people beyond your local network.”