Good for business:
Tippie College embraces increase in student diversity
Walk the halls of the Pappajohn Business Building, and you’ll find yourself among a mix of U.S. and international undergraduates. That’s quite a change from 2005, when there were 34 undergraduate international students enrolled in the Tippie College of Business. Today there are 497, the majority of whom are from China.
Those numbers are reflected at the UI and nationally. At Iowa, total international enrollment is 11.4 percent of the student body (up from 7.1 percent in 2005). And, according to the Institute of International Education, undergraduate international student enrollment in the U.S. hit a record high in 2011–12.
“The UI Tippie College of Business, like business in general, is becoming increasingly internationalized,” says Lon Moeller, associate dean of undergraduate programs. “I have talked with people from many different countries and their message is the same—learning about other cultures is important for people in business.”
“...learning about other cultures is important for people in business.”
Lon Moeller, Tippie College associate dean of undergraduate programs
To meet the unique educational needs of its students and prepare them for the changing world of business, the Tippie College of Business has made adjustments to its learning environment.
One approach has been to facilitate interaction between U.S. and international students. For example, students taking Business Communication and Protocol used to be able to choose their teammates for the course’s frequent group projects; now, the instructor selects the teams to ensure that each group is diverse.
That kind of group experience has been invaluable, says Arabella Franze-Soeln, a finance, economics, and Chinese major from Storm Lake, Iowa.
“There may be a language barrier or miscommunication or grammar mistakes, but the more I can learn from working in groups with people of different backgrounds now, the better prepared I’ll be when I start my first job,” she says.
Lee Henely, an economics major from Lake City, Iowa, developed an interest in China after enrolling in a summer international politics class at Harvard where he made friends with several Chinese-American students. He also worked in the Iowa governor’s office, attending several Chinese cultural events and networking with members of the Chinese Association of Iowa as well as with the head of the Iowa Legislature’s Foreign Relations Committee.
“I decided to also study Chinese because of those opportunities,” he says. “I’ve had at least two or three Chinese students in every UI class I’ve taken, and being able to talk with my classmates in their language and have that personal interaction has been a great learning experience.”
This fall, Henely is pursuing graduate studies in international affairs through the Johns Hopkins University–Nanjing University Center. He says he hopes to develop a successful career in China.
Tippie’s leaders have involved faculty and staff in their efforts, too. The Frank Business Communications Center is working with the college’s Institute for International Business to create a faculty workshop to discuss such issues as group projects and grading group work, and the college held workshops in the spring and fall to help with Chinese name pronunciation.
“The language barrier is frustrating for our faculty who want to connect with students,” Moeller says. “The best thing you can do to build a strong relationship with another person is learn their name and then pronounce it correctly.”
More efforts are forthcoming. The college recently established an International Student Task Force, chaired by Terry Boles, associate professor of management and organizations and director of the Institute for International Business, that has been reviewing best practices at peer institutions. The task force surveyed both domestic and international students at the end of the academic year about the challenges international students face in the college and how domestic students feel about their international counterparts.
“We plan to follow up with programming and workshops to address the issues students raise, in the hopes of creating a more inclusive environment for all Tippie students,” Boles says.