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Online MAC Students Log Off for Spring Break, Raise Global Acumen in Switzerland

By Samantha Beavers

Jenkins graduate students in Poole College of Management are given a master’s education tailored for a global marketplace – plus opportunities to expand their knowledge by participating in immersive global experiences. During spring break, a group of Jenkins graduate students, including two online MAC students, took advantage of the opportunity and headed to Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland as part of the Management of Mega-Trends Impacting Organizational Resiliency (MBA 590) course.

Led by Mark Beasley, Alan T. Dickson Distinguished Professor of Accounting, the course was designed to expose students to top risks organizations are facing around the world.

“Each year, the World Economic Forum hosts an annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland where they bring together geopolitical leaders and CEOs of major corporations to think about some of the big issues countries and businesses are facing,” Beasley explains. “Following the meeting, they issue a global risk report outlining some of these key issues that leaders around the world need to be thinking about – so I decided to build the course around that.” 

Learning up close

From tasting Swiss fondue and participating in a private cooking class with Lindt Chocolate to talking with corporate and world leaders about organizational resiliency, students got to experience a different culture while learning about how leading organizations tackle key global issues.

The entire trip was truly life-changing.

While in Geneva, students had the opportunity to visit with representatives from the United Nations (UN), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Standards Organization (ISO) and Aga Khan Agency for Habitat.

“One unique experience was a panel discussion between our class and Hilary Sienrukos, the chief of program management support at the UN, as well as Mike Pfister, who is the head of the development center for ICRC,” says Kyle Zylowski, one of the two students in the online MAC program who participated in the trip. “To hear about their experiences and the opportunities they have had in their careers was something special. The entire trip was truly life-changing.”

Kyle Zylowski, online MAC student

Marlene Franklin, another online MAC student who went on the trip, agrees.

“I learned so much from each organization we visited – but visiting Aga Khan Agency for Habitat was particularly impactful. Aga Khan goes into the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world to help communities recover from natural disasters, build safe and sustainable housing and more. In this way, they are helping solve two key challenges outlined in the World Economic Forum’s global risk report: climate change and big demographic shifts,” Franklin explains.

“Learning about the work they do was eye-opening in so many ways. During our visit, Onno Ruhl, general manager for Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, talked extensively about the gender gap in pay and what he is doing to advocate for women and close the gap. Hearing this from a man in his position, age and race is something we should be hearing in offices around the world. As an older woman, I’ve never heard this in all my years of working with people who look like him – and it was so impactful. In the future, these are the kinds of things I want to advocate for,” she continues.

Marlene Franklin, online MAC student

After three days in Geneva, the group traveled to Zurich for corporate visits with ABB Switzerland, Vontobel Investment Management and Zurich Insurance.

“All three of the site visits were unique in their own way. We talked about technological advancement and sustainability at ABB, the investment process at Vontobel and the impact of mega-trends on the insurance industry and how Zurich Insurance goes about mitigating risk,” Zylowski says. “I was really thrilled to experience this. As a MAC student, my interests are primarily focused around businesses and how they operate, and I also have experience in the insurance field and currently audit insurance companies for my accounting firm – so these visits really built upon my interests and the things I’m learning in the classroom.”

Forming new relationships

For Franklin and Zylowski, the trip was also an opportunity to connect with other students in Jenkins Graduate School.

“This was my first in-person interaction with students and a professor since graduating undergrad, so it was great to experience that again. It was fantastic to connect with classmates who are all at different stages of life and who have different experiences – that was definitely a highlight,” Zylowski says. 

Franklin shares similar sentiments. An Asheville, North Carolina native and first-generation college student, she first started her journey in higher education while working full-time and raising three teenage sons as a single mom. Having completed most of her education online, Franklin found that the spring break trip provided a unique opportunity to not only meet fellow students, but build friendships as well. 

No matter where you’re at in your life, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I highly recommend it to other online students.

“No matter where you’re at in your life, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I highly recommend it to other online students. This trip was the first time I met any fellow MAC students or MBA students in person, so getting to network, travel and learn with them in Switzerland was a great opportunity that made me feel more connected to NC State and other students in my program,” she says.

“During our free time on the trip, we went shopping and exploring, shared meals together and built friendships. Getting to share this experience with such a great group of people is something I’ll never forget – and though I live in Asheville, I hope to maintain these connections in the future. In fact, a few other students and I have talked about taking another study abroad trip together next year,” she continues.

Seeing the world

According to Beasley, participating in global experiences is something he believes everyone – particularly MAC students – should prioritize.

“I think it’s so important for everyone to raise their global acumen. When my kids were young, my wife and I loved taking them abroad to different places – and we very quickly started calling that money ‘education money’ instead of ‘vacation money.’ I’m so convinced of the importance of broadening your perspective and seeing the differences between your culture and other cultures – as well as the similarities between them. Travel opens our minds,” Beasley says.

“For our MAC students in particular, courses like these are really great electives because they not only offer an amazing international experience, but they help students expand their view and think beyond debits and credits. Seeing outside the world of accounting and gaining more of that big picture is really important,” he continues.

Zylowski acknowledges that international travel can be daunting – but encourages other students to push themselves anyway. 

“Personal growth starts by getting out of your comfort zone. I haven’t traveled much outside of the United States, so learning to navigate airports and new cities was a great life lesson. It may be a little nerve-racking at first, but I promise you’ll get comfortable. It’s an amazing experience to push yourself and see new cultures – and it helps that a lot of it is planned for you,” he says. “Honestly, I felt like such a young kid introduced to the world for the first time. As cheesy as that sounds, seeing the world is so eye-opening.”

To learn more about Jenkins Graduate Global Programs, click here.