For Students, London Visit Underscores Value of International Business Education

6/24/2014

For a business education to be complete, it needs not only an infusion of technology, but a global perspective.

That’s long been the philosophy at the Howe School, which requires courses in international business and employs faculty from around the globe in a bid to create global citizens able to shape the course of business wherever they find themselves. It also drove a recent study abroad trip for 30 undergraduate students, who traveled to London to learn about how business is done in one of Europe’s largest cities.

The trip offered a mix of professional and cultural opportunities, said Michelle Crilly, manager of the Student and Faculty Support Center, who accompanied students in London with Dr. Richard Anderson, who taught the Global Business Seminar course required of students going on the trip. Students visited landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, British Museum and Trafalgar Square, and got to meet and ask questions of executives from Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Lloyd’s of London.

The variety of opportunities made the trip appealing for students beyond just the Howe School, Crilly said.

“The students came out of it with the perspective that business isn’t just business. They could see how their degrees also could be applicable to what we saw,” she said. “So when we went to Goldman Sachs, even the engineers and the Music & Technology student found it useful, because they said they were intrigued with music, art and technology — it’s not just business they’re interested in; they want students of all facets, all majors. So it was interesting to see how a business class might relate to their careers.”

MORE: A home away from home at the Student and Faculty Support Center

That was a point echoed by Spencer Cunningham, who graduated from the Howe School in 2006 with a degree in Business & Technology and is now a vice president managing finances for technology and operations for Deutsche Bank. Spencer spoke candidly with students about his job and his career path after graduating from Stevens.

Cunningham said talking with the students offered a lesson in how busy his alma mater has been.

“A lot of the majors are things Stevens wasn’t offering when I was there. I met quite a few quant people, for instance,” he said. “I only graduated a few years ago, but it seems that in that time, the Howe School has really started to diversify.” The school has added undergraduate majors in Economics, Information Systems, Marketing, Finance and Management in recent years.

“It was refreshing to hear there were a lot of people who didn’t know what they wanted to do,” Cunningham said. For instance, a doctor knows he’ll be a doctor, and an engineering student knows she’ll be an engineer, “but in business technology, or quant, or other finance programs, you can’t really say, ‘I’m going to be a businessman,’ ” he said. “That’s not like being an eye doctor. They’re building a skill set to apply it to life, basically, and what exactly they’ll be doing, they don’t know. And looking back at my time at Stevens, it was the same for me and my classmates. We didn’t really know what exactly we’d apply our training to, but everybody wanted to apply it to something.”

Students who attended the trip said that insight and perspective was valuable. Eddy Scanlan, a B&T major who will be a sophomore in the fall, said “most of us could connect with Spencer a little easier” because he was a recent graduate.

Scanlan, who is interning this summer at a startup, said he’s interested in working at a large corporation like Merrill Lynch or Deutsche Bank, but isn’t sure if he wants to be in a front- or back-office role. The trip to London gave him a lot to think about, he said. Even just a glimpse of the size of an operation the size of Deutsche Bank was a surprise to him. “It was pretty enlightening to see how much the bank, just baseline cost, needs to run and function every day,” Scanlan said.

A taste of a business career

Ethan Crump, a Physics major who will be a junior in the fall, said he found his exposure to business helpful, particularly Cunningham’s talk.

“He was very interesting to talk to,” Crump said. “And the trip opened up the idea to me of living and working abroad — I definitely feel that’s something, if there was an opportunity, I’d be more open to take it than I would be before.”

Crump said he isn’t sure what he plans to do with his degree yet, but he was heartened to hear from Cunningham and other presenters that he has time to figure that out.

“It was good opportunity to see people who said, ‘If you don’t know what you want to do, do something you like, and you’ll end up in a place you want to be,’ ” he said.

And he surprised himself by taking a lot away from the business part of the trip.

“It was really interesting talking to some of the people and seeing how business is actually done,” Crump said. “And I really enjoyed talking to some of the Quantitative Finance majors. They were sharp, and really interesting to talk to.”

Lindsay Stone, an Engineering Management major who will be a junior in the fall, also said she didn’t know what to expect from the visits with executives, but wound up being pleasantly surprised.

“Each visit was extremely valuable, allowing me to see just how much of a role engineering plays in international business and vice versa,” she said. “I was able to ask questions and participate in discussions with upper management, and learn about the different operations and departments that collaborate in order to make any major business function and compete.”

Like other students on the trip, Stone said it was her first time traveling outside the continent, and each said they walked away changed by the visit.

“I decided to go on this trip thinking it would be a good way to see a new city and potentially learn a little more about the business world,” she said. “But during my time there I decided that I would actually be interested in working for an international firm someday, potentially establishing my career in London, or at least exploring professional opportunities that allow me to travel to different countries.”

How Stevens stands out

Cunningham has been based in London ever since Deutsche Bank sent him from its Wall Street offices to the United Kingdom in May 2008, two years after he graduated. And his Stevens experience helped him make the transition abroad, he said. Here are some ways Stevens has stood out for him:

Technology focus. “That’s location agnostic,” he said. A strong understanding of technology is critical no matter where in business a graduate winds up.

Diversity on campus. The concentration of international students and faculty at Stevens “really prepares you for not only the normal workplace, since almost every large corporation these days is multinational,” he said. “And if you ever make that jump overseas, you need to be able to thrive in a diverse environment.”

Working hard. “I don’t think you get the opportunity to work internationally if you’re not good at your job, if you’re not hard working,” he said. “Companies are going to invest in people that they see as being an ambassador for the company, where they’re gong to get a good return on investment. Stevens absolutely prepares you for what’s going to be a demanding workplace when you get out.”

Communication emphasis. Cunningham remembers plenty of group work and presentations from his Stevens classes, which is directly applicable overseas: “Especially internationally, if you have to deliver a message to a large audience, on the phone or in the room, your ability to understand what your audience and what they need to know is critical. And the more practice you have, the better.”