Student Projects Incorporate Social Responsibility

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On Dec. 6, the first class of the Master of Arts in International Business and Policy (IBP) program, offered in conjunction with the Walsh School of Foreign Service (new window), presented their social action projects, which took the form of global strategy research and recommendations carried out with public, private, and nonprofit collaborators.

The 12-month graduate program for working professionals explores the frameworks relevant to international relations in tandem with contemporary issues in global business. Students take courses taught both by Georgetown McDonough and School of Foreign Service faculty. The inaugural class will graduate on Dec. 9.

One of the primary goals of the social action projects is to enable real-world application of the IBP curriculum.

“We want to create an opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world challenges and opportunities,” said Professor Michael P. Ryan (new window), course director for the projects. “I hope the students felt like they were able to draw from the curriculum in personally and intellectually meaningful ways.”

In January, students submitted preferences on whether they wanted to work in the public, private, or nonprofit sector and indicated different areas of interest. Ryan then found various collaborators, ranging from the nonprofit Save the Children to coffee giant Starbucks, who either had a business challenge to tackle or an opportunity for growth. Over the past 12 months, the students have conducted research, stakeholder interviews, and surveys, culminating in a set of recommendations for the client.

Julia Gaiser (IBP’17) and Branndon Jackson (IBP’17) worked with the American Council on Education to examine the effect that international students have on economic development in college towns. Using Purdue University, which has a robust international student program, as a benchmark, Gaiser and Jackson developed strategic plans for the University of Akron and Alabama A&M University, respectively.

Gaiser and Jackson looked to leverage the resources of the surrounding communities to attract international students. In recent years, Akron, Ohio, has become a center for STEM research and jobs, and the city also recently received a grant to develop a strategic welcome plan for immigrants. As for Huntsville, where Alabama A&M University is located, it serves as a hub for NASA, government contractors, and other aerospace-related companies. Gaiser and Jackson recommended the university develop alliances with government contractors to attract engineering or physics-minded international students.

“The important thing to realize is that every university is different,” Gaiser said. “It’s not one size fits all. You have to create programs to make the international community feel like they belong.”

Jenniffer Crowe (IBP’17) and Natalia Rankine-Galloway (IBP’17) partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to identify successful public-private partnership models in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. They hoped to apply their findings to the cocoa industry, as large consumer demand for the commodity has resulted in rapid deforestation in Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. During the project, Crowe and Rankine-Galloway explored issues of corporate, consumer, and governmental responsibility.

“The IBP program has taught me that there are always forces outside your control,” Rankine-Galloway said. “It’s helped me understand and prepare for those externalities.” She added that the caliber of students in the program greatly shaped her experience. “We all come from such diverse industries and push each other to do better and be introspective about our own abilities.”

The project’s focus on social responsibility incorporates the Jesuit values central to Georgetown University directly into the program’s curriculum. “Through the social action projects, the IBP program encourages students to be women and men for others in a very meaningful way,” said Peggy-Anne Tio, assistant director of program management and recruitment for executive degree programs at Georgetown McDonough.

Ryan hopes that the projects do not end here. “There’s potential that their recommendations will be set into motion,” he said, “and I hope next year, some students will have the opportunity to work on key issues related to their IBP projects.”