By Ed Brennen
What started as a pilot program in 2014 with nine Manning School of Business students visiting India over winter break to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation has grown into a nationally recognized model of international education.
The Institute of International Education (IIE) has named the university’s Global Entrepreneurship Exchange (GE2) program as the winner of a 2018 IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education.
The GE2 program, led by senior lecturer Ashwin Mehta, will receive the “Best Practice Resource: Study Abroad” award at the IIE’s annual Best Practices in Internationalization Conference in New York City on March 16.
“It’s a great recognition that wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of so many faculty and staff members, not only here in the Manning School, but across the campus,” Mehta says. “It’s also an indication that UMass Lowell is at the forefront when it comes to global engagement and entrepreneurship.”
Since the program’s inception four years ago, more than 670 students from 12 countries have come together to experience multidisciplinary and multicultural immersion in entrepreneurship, complete with project-based activities and field visits to businesses in the region.
UMass Lowell students earn three credits as they study abroad for two weeks in India (winter or summer) or China (summer). They can also take part in a three-credit summer course on campus with students visiting from India, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam, Guyana, Haiti and Nigeria. The program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and has included students majoring not only in business, but also engineering, science and nursing.
“The GE2 program is a great example of a successful short-term experiential program with reaches across academic disciplines and cultures,” says Fern MacKinnon, director of the Office of Study Abroad & International Experiences. “We are proud to be able to offer the enriching exchange it provides to its participants.”
“I never thought it would grow into something like this,” says Mehta, who, along with Asst. Prof. Michael Obal, led eight UML students to India over winter break on the program’s 12th session overall. “It shows that UMass Lowell’s global brand is expanding. We have a global footprint.”
At the IIE conference in March, Mehta and leaders from the other award-winning campuses (Virginia Commonwealth University, West Virginia University and the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute) will make presentations about their programs to help higher education policymakers and officials advance their internationalization efforts. UMass Lowell is one of 1,300 IIE member institutions.
“We congratulate the winners of this year’s IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards for their innovative work,” says IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman. “We hope these programs will not only be adapted by institutions for their own campuses, but that they will also spark new creative ideas for internationalization.”
The IIE Heiskell Awards are named for the late Andrew Heiskell, former chairman of Time Inc. and a dedicated supporter of international education. Over the past 17 years, the awards have recognized nearly 140 programs that advance international education on IIE member campuses. Founded in 1919, the nonprofit IIE collaborates with corporate, government and foundation partners around the world to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs.
In 2014, UMass Lowell joined the IIE’s “Generation Study Abroad” initiative, which aims to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2020. According to MacKinnon, the university has nearly doubled its rate — three years ahead of schedule.
“Through support to our faculty in the development of international experiences, we aim to offer a diverse range of programs to suit our students’ academic, personal and professional interests,” she says. “The GE2 program highlights the university’s commitment toward transformational, experiential education.”