Photo: Kelley Kennedy

Program hosts international students

After working for several years, the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management has taken a significant step towards globalization, a major strategic focus for the college by hosting the college’s first international summer program.

International students from China and the Caribbean nation of Curacao are taking tourism and business classes at USC this summer.

The 47 students and two teachers from Beijing International Studies University will be on campus for three weeks, while the 12 students and one teacher from the Inter-Continental University of the Caribbean will be at USC for five weeks.

“The college of HRSM has been devoting energies to international collaborations for at least five years and what we try to do is establish relationships with countries and regions,” said Brian Mihalik dean of the College of HRSM. “We’ve been trying for years to come up with a mechanism to get more than just one or two students each fall or spring.”

The students are not taking formalized, three credit hours classes, but instead are paying a fee for professors from the College of HRSM and the Darla Moore School of Business to present to them.
The program also includes visits to Charleston, Charlotte, Washington, New York and the Boston area, all with the goal of helping the students gain an understanding of the American tourism industry.

“This is the first time we have had a large group of students coming and paying us a fee to organize their trip,” Mihalik said. “We’re excited about this because it’s been a long time in development.”

Mihalik hopes that the international students, who are staying in South Quad, are able to get a feel for the full student experience through the “bigger and more inclusive” atmosphere of USC, made complete by facilities such as the student union and the Strom Thurmond Wellness & Fitness Center.

“Our universities are very different from theirs,” Mihalik said. “They’re really getting a sense of how we look at education both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Mihalik also hopes that these students experience what it’s like to be in America and get exposure to American business that they can incorporate later in their experiences in their home countries. He sees this as a way for USC to expand its outreach, potentially attract more students to come here and even possibly form dual-degree programs.

“These students are all going to be going back and working in the … tourism industry, so having that connection to Columbia and the university is really important,” Mihalik said.

He is especially excited about having the Chinese students on campus because of their large impact on the American tourism industry. China has a middle class bigger than the entire United States population, and Mihalik predicts they will become outbound tourists in the future.

“We’re trying to get more Asian students in our fall and spring classes and we think this is one of the mechanisms to do this,” Mihalik said. “What’s going on over there will affect every single student that graduates from our units for the next 40 years.”

USC has connections with these two particular universities, both of which have strong tourism and hospitality programs, through faculty exchange and academic research.

“Our college has a tradition of reaching internationally to cooperate with other universities and colleges around the world,” said Lin Wang, international program coordinator of the College of HRSM. “I would say this part of [Mihalik’s] grand plan.”

Although this is the College of HRSM’s first international summer program, Mihalik and Wang do not intend for it to be the last.

“I hope that next year, with the help of our sister universities, we are able to have a bigger, better summer program for them next year.”

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