Michael Boecher wanted to study abroad when he was an undergraduate, but he never quite got around to it. Boecher regretted the oversight, especially when he went to work for the global company, United Technology Aerospace Systems.
Then in 2015, he found another opportunity to have an international work/study experience, and this time, he didn’t hesitate. Boecher was one of two San Diego State University MBA candidates to complete a capstone project in Colombia, working with a team of graduate students on a real-world corporate challenge.
While 30 percent of SDSU undergraduates study abroad, most graduate students here and at other universities don’t factor an international experience into their degree program. Boecher is the exception.
“I decided to acquire my project management experience in a new environment with other students from all over the United States,” Boecher said. “It was challenging, but very rewarding. The program taught me a lot about working with virtual teams and managing a global project."
Off to China and Chile
This year, six students will follow Boecher’s lead and spend 10 days abroad completing their MBA capstone projects in locations as far-flung as China, Brazil and Chile. Each one belongs to a team of MBA students from four different U.S. universities. The teams are strategically matched with global corporate clients.
SDSU students participate in the Global Business Consulting program through the university’s Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the CIBER network of 17 universities links the needs of the business community with the international education, language training, and research capacities of universities across the country.
SDSU CIBER is the only nationally designated center in California and among the first five funded when the program was launched in 1989.
In fact, the CIBER programs at SDSU and the University of South Carolina are the only ones to have been continuously funded since then. Grants are reviewed every four years.
“CIBER initiatives integrate international education into our highly ranked graduate and undergraduate business programs,” said Mark Ballam, managing director.
Aztec Lauren Schwarz also worked abroad on a global consulting team tasked with expanding business for Boston Scientific. Because she was working full-time, Schwarz used precious vacation days to travel to Columbia for the final leg of her team project.
She said her experience in Colombia “impacts my professional life nearly every day.” It also helped advance her career; Schwarz recently navigated from an engineering position to the field of business consulting with a move to Gartner Inc.
SDSU CIBER also contributes to curriculum development at SDSU by creating programs that interject international and experiential learning into the classroom. The "International Business and Accounting Practices" course was revised to add a short-term study abroad component and a virtual teaming component.
In partnership with The Berlin School of Economics and Law, SDSU students worked virtually on a project with students in Berlin and also traveled to Germany to visit international companies and participate in cultural activities with their German counterparts.