When Preparing Students for International Business CSI Is "All Over the Map"

With U.S. businesses of all sizes increasingly involved in global commerce, CSI’s International Business program is, literally and figuratively, “all over the map” in preparing students to meet the challenges and opportunities.

In addition to required formal courses, students are exposed to arts and culture of foreign economies with tours of area cultural centers, studies and trips abroad, and addresses by alumni and others successful in international commerce.

Professor Alan Zimmerman, Area coordinator of International Business, declares: “The world today is linked so inextricably, everything tied together so tightly, you can’t be in business without connecting to the international market. You’re not going to grow sales enough by staying domestic and limiting yourself to the United States. Even small stores need to buy foreign product.”

Accordingly, required courses deal not only with international trade, but also with foreign languages, political science, history, and economics. In addition, students are encouraged to tackle a second major within the field of business such as management, finance, accounting, or marketing.

Also contributing to students’ understanding of foreign business is the CSI student-run International Business Society, which sponsors events, speakers, and trips to help members gain exposure to various international subjects.

One such event took place last semester, when more than 20 students toured the Asia Society in Manhattan, which, according to Professor Zimmerman, has a “strong, enthusiastic relationship” with the College. “They learned a lot, [maximizing] a chance to be exposed to the art and culture of a particular geographic area,” said Professor Zimmerman, who has devoted his teaching, writing, and business career to international subjects.

The International Business Society also co-sponsored one event with CSI finance Professor George Wang, a graduate of Peking University, who brought a group of Chinese business people to address the students.

While the International Business area doesn’t necessarily focus on Asia, Professor Zimmerman commented that CSI does offer a certificate in Modern China Studies. This was originated by the Modern China Study group, a faculty unit that researches China and presents various educational programs with experts in various academic disciplines, including art and cinema.

Potential geographical areas of study for CSI students range wide, across the globe. “We’re looking at the entire world,” he emphasized, “so we’re also interested in places other than Asia. We’ve sent quite a few students to Shanghai, but also to the Dublin Institute of Technology, as well as to France, Italy, and other places. This June, I am taking a group of students to study in Ireland.”

The International Business Society, which Professor Zimmerman advises, was awarded three certificates last semester–one to Maricruz Criollo, its president, for outstanding leadership, and an “outstanding club program from initiation to assessment” honor for each of two events it conducted.

Some international business practices raise ethical issues, and Professor Zimmerman is convinced that the subject of ethics in business is so important that he teaches it early and often, “not as an afterthought.” He works hard to disabuse students of the notions some have that “you can’t be both ethical and successful in business” or that “all businesspeople are unethical.”

He cited his own experience as an employee of Westinghouse Electric Company, and has invited speakers from other firms that emphasize ethical business behavior such as Johnson & Johnson.

Professor Zimmerman makes a point of tracking International Business alumni and inviting them to tell his students how they’re faring and how CSI and the Society helped them. He’s also presented other speakers involved in international business, from, among others, the United Nations.

The UN is among the resources of foreign culture in this area that students plan to visit next semester. They’ve already visited the Chinese Scholars Garden at Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island, and plan to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.

Professor Zimmerman, who has a Doctorate in International Business from Pace University, has won two Fulbright research and teaching awards. With one, he studied at Dublin Institute of Technology, and he recently received a senior specialist grant for India. A veteran of the international business field, after his career with Westinghouse International, he founded a consulting and research business that served many international clients.

As a teacher, Professor Zimmerman’s major satisfaction, he says, is showing students the many opportunities for success at CSI, seeing students grow and becoming successful in their careers, among them, in international media, the U.S. State Department, and as assistant general counsel for a major Wall Street trading corporation. One former student he taught as an undergraduate earned an MBA degree and worked for the professor in his company, and is now an adjunct professor at CSI.

The CSI International Business program, long in existence, now has about 75 majors, including some with double majors, and has become among the larger majors on campus.

For an international business major to maximize his or her chances for success, Professor Zimmerman recommends four steps (displayed on a classroom sign): “Take a double major; study abroad; be active in the International Business Society; get an internship.”

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