By Ed Brennen
For Sean Flaherty, the experience convinced him that he wants to work for an international company that makes a positive impact on the world. For Abigail Tavernese, it gave her a newfound respect for international students who travel halfway around the world to pursue their degrees at UMass Lowell.
Each of the 13 students who traveled to India over winter break with the Manning School of Business’ two-week Global Entrepreneurship Exchange (GE2) program returned home with new perspectives on their futures – and on the world.
“It was, without a doubt, the best experience of my life,” says Flaherty, a senior business administration major with a concentration in finance who had never taken an entrepreneurship class before, let alone one that brought together 50 business, engineering and computer science students from India, China and the U.S.
“Working on multicultural, multidisciplinary teams was difficult, but it taught me how to adapt how I’m communicating and how I’m understanding things in a different culture and different place,” Flaherty says. “I want to take that understanding with me moving forward in my professional future.”
Now in its sixth year, the award-winning GE2 program is led by Ashwin Mehta, an associate teaching professor of management, in conjunction with the International Experiences and Study Abroad office and the Wilson Center for Entrepreneurship. The three-credit course is designed to help students understand the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in today’s global economy, either abroad in India or China or here at UML.
The recent winter session, held at KLE Technological University in Hubli, India, included UML undergraduate students majoring in business, computer science and biomedical engineering and was led by Mehta and Michael Ciuchta, an assistant professor of management.
They were joined by 37 undergraduate and graduate students from KLE and China’s Nanjing University of Postal and Telecommunications.
In addition to classroom learning about small businesses, growth ventures and corporate and social entrepreneurship, students collaborated in small groups on the “500 Rupee Challenge.” Each team was given 500 rupees (about $7 USD) and had two days to create a small business (such as selling candygrams or homemade jewelry) to raise capital.
Collectively, the teams raised 35,000 rupees from the two-day project, which they decided to donate to a local orphanage. A group of 10 students traveled by motorized rickshaws to the orphanage, unannounced, to make the donation. The students were invited to meet the children and spent more than an hour at the orphanage.
“It was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip,” junior business administration major Jonathan Griffiths wrote on his GE2 study abroad blog.
The class also had a chance to meet Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, a legendary venture capitalist, high-tech entrepreneur and philanthropist who hosts the annual Deshpande Symposium at UML.
After completing their coursework in Hubli, students flew to Chennai, on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India, where they spent three days taking in historical and cultural sights.
Tavernese, a senior business administration major with concentrations in marketing and management, also had a chance to travel to Delhi. There, she and Ciuchta represented UMass Lowell at an international college recruitment fair that included U.S. schools such as Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Bentley University and UMass Amherst.
“I definitely have a newfound respect for students from another culture who go out of their way to try to learn in another language and another culture,” Tavernese says. “Even though there are a lot of differences between us, we’re all still college students wanting the experience of learning from other people.”
Since its inception in 2014, more than 880 students from 17 countries have participated in 16 GE2 sessions. This summer, a session is scheduled for China (June 3-14) and two will be held at UML (July 8-19 and July 22-Aug. 2).