Gaining university experience through a global lens

Checking off “travel the world” on a bucket list can take time, but for some University of Tulsa problem-solvers, brain-stormers, creators and doers, it’s part of the course description. TU’s Global Scholars program is a dynamic interdisciplinary group of students that examine global issues with a holistic perspective. The curriculum encourages students to work in groups that solve real-world problems. While working with international clients, students gain hands-on experience, learn to collaborate with classmates from different majors and perspectives and network with professionals in Tulsa and around the world.

Lara Foley, assistant vice provost for global engagement, explained that population dynamics, resources, economics, information, technology, conflict and governance involve challenges that every geographical region and industry will face in the future; understanding these issues and topics related to students’ fields of study enriches their careers.

The process of traveling abroad began when Foley connected with businesses and organizations while visiting Panama. TU students were given a mission to accomplish for an international cause, resulting in several internship opportunities — students pitched ideas that their global partners would like to implement. A former group at a coffee farm proposed the idea of adding single-serve pods to a product line, and with the help of a TU intern, the product was marketed.

Previously, students have visited Berlin, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; and Cape Town, South Africa. “We have built very strong partnerships in Panama, but there is always the possibility that we could change locations,” Foley explained. TU Global Scholars have visited Panama for the past three years.

The bees-ness

As a finance major, Apolo Castillo was assigned Boquete Bees that produces Miel Boqueteña honey products and coffee as well as a “nature experiences” tour of Boquete, Panama’s landscape and their farm, which includes a yoga studio inside a butterfly garden.

Castillo explained that the collaboration with Boquete Bees not only offered tangible work experience in operating and expanding a business on a global scale but also helped him learn how to overcome challenges and prepare for a career in an international workplace.

A requirement of the Global Scholars program is a class excursion abroad. “The months leading up to the trip, we divided into groups and each communicated with a developing business in Panama. We sought to offer solutions to any roadblocks they may be experiencing, from marketing analysis to product diversification,” he said.

Castillo and his teammates focused on analyzing the current “wellness tourism” market for Boquete Bees and offering marketing options to compete against other similar businesses. The group suggested marketing the brand as a luxury experience tailored to a niche customer base.

“Global Scholars is a phenomenal program that welcomes a community of students varying in majors, but that also challenges them to keep the world in scope of their daily lives through designed courses, programs and study abroad opportunities,” Castillo said.

The sound of empowerment

For music education major Emma Dawson, it’s important to continue expanding skills in open-mindedness and global awareness, as well as working on leadership and teamwork. “No matter your field, every student should go through a program that enhances their global and cultural perspectives for a deeper understanding of the world and the people in it,” she explained.

As a Global Scholar and percussionist, she has developed her leadership skills and grown as a learner. Under the influence of Foley, students like Dawson take ownership and leadership overall ideas, plans and initiatives of the Panama internships for the summer. In addition to planning her upcoming trip, Dawson has held professional meetings with clients and created a mentor-mentee relationship with Foley.

As she gains a global perspective, Dawson creates deeper empathy and understanding for those around her. “Your breadth of knowledge is only as big as your mindset, and global studies allow me to open my mindset to gaining more knowledge,” she explained.

Working alongside clients, Dawson felt empowered that they not only trust her but other TU interns as well.

Learn more about study abroad opportunities and solving the world’s challenges through the Global Scholars Program.