Thursday, May 13, 2021

By Stephanie Fountain, Stephanie Schnicker, AACSB International

With campuses closing and travel restrictions soaring in February 2020, countless University of Iowa students were forced to prematurely return home from studying abroad. With travel at a standstill, entire cohorts of students were at risk of losing the opportunity to study abroad. It was our responsibility to keep their learning on track by quickly rethinking our format for international education.  

In doing so, we first had to accept today’s reality: Virtual global experiences are not study abroad programs. We did not pretend that we could replicate a study abroad program from our students’ homes. Instead, we knew that the Tippie College of Business could create an experience that would pique students’ curiosity, deepen their global business understanding, and introduce a framework for cultural learning.

The experience we designed was a new course called International Business in a Time of Disruption: Protectionism, Pandemics, and Political Fragmentation. Finance majors could count this offering as an upper-level finance course, while other majors could count it as part of their general education credits. It also satisfied Tippie RISE, our experiential learning requirement, as well as part of our international business certificate.

Its structure allowed students to explore Italy virtually while examining the business, social, cultural, and political response to the pandemic. While the course was not a replacement for a true study abroad experience, we hope that it helped prepare students for the business world they are about to enter—and that it inspired them to want to explore the world in the future.