Dr. Tom Fitzpatrick, director of the School of Business & Management at Husson University, has organized four trips to China with us since 2009. His programs focus on business and international relations, and draw in students from a wide range of academic backgrounds. Here we share Dr. Fitzpatrick’s story and the success he’s had through bringing students abroad.
AN EXPERIENTIAL APPROACH
Dr. Fitzpatrick believes that short-term programs to long-distance destinations, such as China, accelerate a young person’s capability to become more globally aware. “When students travel successfully,” Tom says, “it requires them to be adaptable, flexible and tolerant. If you can be those things, there’s not much in life you can’t do.”
While his programs have a sharp focus on business and economy in China, Tom emphasizes that they are really cross-disciplinary. “There’s no restriction. You don’t have to be a business major, so students at Husson can take it as a graduate course, undergraduate elective, or even for language and culture.” Tom took every measure he needed to ensure his course was available to all students, going from dean to dean throughout the departments to secure academic credit for most disciplines offered at his school.
“For me, it’s providing that first opportunity for a student to try out their wings and see what it’s like to leave home, fly for 18 hours and experience a different culture for 11 days. It’s a big step for new travelers, but the students come back changed.”
Tom says he started traveling later in life than he would have liked, but he’s been committed to sharing his passion for exploring different cultures ever since. “My personal view is to make my classes as experiential as possible. So, it’s the ultimate step to take students to China rather than just talk about how important it is to the world economy.” Fitzpatrick’s philosophy shapes the programs into especially rewarding experiences for him and his students.
Long before Tom ever considered leading a program to Asia, he had been keeping in contact with former students who ended up living in China. With his rooted connections, Fitzpatrick’s programs were able to visit the cities where university alumni lived. “The students got to talk with alums about exactly what it’s like to work and live in business hubs like Shanghai and Hong Kong. One had lived there for 30 years while another had only been there 6 months, which gave the students a full range of the experience.”
Tom was busy making connections elsewhere, too. “I met a gentlemen from the Huainan Bank who was at an Academy of International Business Conference. I was giving a presentation on my micro-lending project, and it turned out he had a passion for the topic. I told him I’d be in Shanghai with my students, and he offered to host us. What he did for us when we were there… well, the photographs don’t do it justice. They treated us like a foreign trade delegation—it was off the chart! The meal took two days to prepare from the chairman’s chef, and the students knew the whole thing was special.”
One student in particular got a lot out of that first trip—namely her first job after college. Alice McAvoy hadn’t traveled much before departing for China late in 2009, but she had been studying Mandarin. “She met with some of the guest speakers on the trip who had contacts in Shanghai, and they helped her land an ESL job after graduation. By the time I took students on my second trip to China, she was already out there and took us to see her kindergarten class, where we got to see her in her work environment. The amazing thing for me,” Tom says, “was when I saw her on that second trip—she was no longer a college student; she was a full-blown professional ex-pat living in Shanghai.”
You can read more about Tom’s itinerary in China here. His experience bringing students abroad is just one of many. Bring your coursework abroad and give your students a challenge they can’t get anywhere else.