Published 05/13/11

Students in the International Business Program Get Hands-On Practice Doing Business Overseas

May 2011

It’s the kind of grim statistic that seldom gets mentioned in an American business school: On March 10, 2011, according to the monitoring group Ecoterra International, at least 46 foreign vessels and two barges were being held by Somali pirates, along with 737 hostages.

Yet nearly a year before the Ecoterra issued that update, students in Bryant’s International Business program were taking note of the impact of Somali piracy on global trade.

Drawing up a plan enabling Tatutina, a small local business looking for marketing opportunities in Europe, seniors Phillip Bock, Roxanne Cowperthwaite, Jennifer Herrera and Matthew Meehan, ’10, took account of how the seizure of vessels by Somali pirates had increased cost of shipping Tatutina products from China, where they were manufactured, to Switzerland, where they were going to be sold. 

 “We have taken the initiative to be sure that our products in the 40-foot container [used to ship cargo] are covered by insurance,” the students said in the business plan, “and that Tatutina would not suffer financial repercussions”  if a freighter carrying the children’s footstools, bookends and menu boxes it manufactured was seized.

Hands-on experience

Welcome to international business the way it is taught at Bryant. Students enrolled in the four-year Bachelor of Science international business program not only take courses, they acquire hands-on experience through an innovative practicum during their senior year.

“In the fourth year, it is about real-life experience,” says Professor Madan Annavarjula, coordinator of the International Business Program. Students are assigned to work with companies that have come to Bryant’s John H. Chafee Center for International Business looking for help doing business globally. They assemble data and develop contacts aimed at helping the companies enter markets overseas.

Annavarjula came to Bryant in 2006, a year after the university established the International Business program. He started the International Business Consulting Project two years later, after approaching the Chafee Center and proposing a collaborative effort.

“One of the profs, Madan Annavarjula, approached us, and said, three years ago, that he wanted to establish a practicum program for the international business majors,” says Gerald Cohen, international trade specialist at the Chafee Center.

“And the idea was formulated, and implemented, very jointly with us and Madan, to go out and locate businesses who either were doing business internationally or wanted to do business internationally and bring them into the fold and assign the student teams,” says Cohen.

“The first year we had six companies. Last year we had 12 companies. This year we are in the process of handing 17 client companies. And next year we it will be either 24 or 25 companies,” Cohen says.

IB Practicum benefits students and local companies

Working with the Bryant IB practicum students last year so impressed Tatutina President Roberta O’Neill that she wanted to build upon that experience with a second student team this year, this time focusing on Japanese and United Kingdom markets.  

“The Bryant students brought tremendous energy and a remarkable professionalism as they worked with us on successfully expanding our company to international markets,” says O’Neill. “Bryant is turning out some really impressive students. These kids are really something. It’s wonderful to know that someday soon businesses will be in the hands of these talented young people.”

Students in the International Business Program are required to learn a second language, study abroad for a semester, complete a concentration in accounting, computer information systems, entrepreneurship, finance, management or marketing, and take a block of courses that integrates everything they have learned.

But the linchpin of the program is the practicum, or International Business Consulting Project. It’s there that students get the hands-on experience that Annavarjula deems essential. “Because, you know, if you tell them, they’ll remember it for a few days. If they write an exam, they’ll remember it for a few more days. But if they actually do it, they remember it a longer time,” he says.