Raising Export Literacy, One College Student at a Time
Business educators from community colleges participating in a workshop in June 2009 on ways to integrate international content into their business courses.
Business educators from community colleges participating in a workshop in June 2009 on ways to integrate international content into their business courses. The one-week program, which is held annually at Michigan State University, uses materials produced by the Department of Commerce. (photo courtesy Michigan State University)
With the goal of helping raise a new generation of exporters, Michigan State University is using materials created by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service to show postsecondary business educators how they can better integrate the basics of exporting and the international marketplace into their curricula.
One way to grow the U.S. economy is to increase exports by small and medium-sized enterprises. President Barack Obama made this point recently when he announced the National Export Initiative. But to do so, the United States will need many more exporters. Although the number of smaller firms selling globally has quadrupled during the past decade, less than 2 percent of all U.S. businesses export compared with 6 percent in the United Kingdom. What to do?
A cheaper dollar, greater availability of commercial credit, and increased technical assistance can help in the short term. But in the long term, U.S. efforts to expand exporting must go broader and deeper by raising export literacy and the ability of businesses to compete in the world market. So in 2008, the Advanced International Business Institute at Michigan State University (MSU) began working with materials created by the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS) to improve international business education for community college faculty members.
Infusing International Content
Every summer, 25 to 40 faculty members from around the country are selected to spend a week on the MSU campus to learn how to infuse existing business courses with international content and how to create new courses. Faculty members also learn how to provide leadership in international studies at their community colleges and how to create study-abroad opportunities.
Participants receive a copy of the Department of Commerce book A Basic Guide to Exporting. A slide-show lecture on each of the book’s chapters, prepared by the Center for International Business Education at MSU, accompanies each of the chapters. Faculty members from the business school demonstrate how to incorporate materials into existing courses and in those the participants plan to develop.
“We want to see the book and accompanying materials in as many college business courses as possible,” said Tomas Hult, director of the center and associate dean of the MSU business school.
For More Information
The Advanced International Business Institute for community college faculty is organized and run by Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business. The next workshop is slated to run on June 6–9, 2010. Applications to participate will be accepted until April 15. More information on the program is available on their website. To obtain a copy of A Basic Guide to Exporting, visit Export.gov.
The USFCS in general encourages business education programs to incorporate export education into their curriculum. While the USFCS works closely with Michigan State University on this initiative, the relationship is not exclusive and the USFCS does not endorse any specific institution or curriculum program.
An Enduring Entrepreneurial Culture
“We’ve noticed that sales to college bookstores of A Basic Guide to Exporting have increased, and we attribute much of that to MSU’s program,” said Doug Barry, senior international trade specialist in the Trade Information Center and a presenter at MSU’s program. “We’re pleased to be involved in developing new exporters by reaching them where they go to develop new skills and business ideas.”
Barry praised the role played by community colleges in workforce training, innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic revitalization during a presentation he made last year to the Michigan International Business Club on the MSU campus in Lansing. “We have the most entrepreneurial culture in the world, and now we have to make and sell more things that people around the world need.”
Barry noted that most business is now global and that U.S. businesses need to be comfortable and competent working in that context. “Every businessperson in the country should have a basic understanding of how to sell a product or service to another country and how trade works to benefit our country and our trading partners.”
If business students are conscious of the international marketplace, the U.S. economy will have a new generation of exporters.