Archive for the ‘Study Abroad’ Category

From Montana to Taksim Square: The Life of a Distance Learner

August 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Growing up in Montana, where small businesses (aka, Mom and Pop stores) reign supreme and ethical business was never the exception, I was searching for a graduate program that would emphasize ethics, smart business practices and maximizing profits without compromising the standards I was instilled with in my early years. So, I’m proud to say that I decided to enroll in the MS in Global Leadership (MSGL) Program at the University of San Diego’s School of Business Administration.  Due to a death in the family, I needed to stay up here in Montana during my studies, which thankfully, the MSGL program was able to accommodate by placing me on the Distance Learner route. So there I was, up in Montana, enrolled in a full-time program at the University of San Diego.

Berlin Reception

Debbie Bjerke (Cohort 57), front row center, and other MSGL Students at reception in Berlin

Studying international business and global leadership in the classroom and in my case, the virtual classroom, was only a part of my academic experience. I had the unique opportunity to study abroad with the program, which if you can, I highly recommend it. The program currently takes students to China, Germany, Turkey and Argentina. I had already studied in Argentina during my undergraduate archaeological field school, so I had to choose between studying in China and Europe. I ended up choosing to study Global Politics, Policy and Law in Berlin, Germany and Istanbul, Turkey, which would end up being the most rewarding experience during my time in the MSGL Program.

I started off my MSGL study abroad adventure in Berlin. My experience in Berlin taught me more than just international (German) business policies and law. To begin with, Berlin is an incredibly modern city, which I was able to navigate with ease, even though I didn’t know how to speak German. One of the more fascinating places I stumbled upon with my fellow students was a wine bar (Rutz) where the sommelier educated us on German wine.  Another extra-curricular experience that was incredibly interesting, but more moving than anything, was our visit to the Sachsenhausen’s Concentration Camp. In short, Berlin is one big history lesson.

Tour of Berlin

Debbie, fifth from the left, and other students on bike tour of Berlin.

After about a week, we left Germany for Istanbul, Turkey.  This was the most inspiring and eye-opening experiences of the trip due to the protests and escalating uprisings that were occurring in Taksim Square. The unrest was only about a half mile from our hotel.  Coming from a small-town, I wasn’t used to such large gatherings, especially those that are politically charged.  Standing in the middle of the protests was inspiring on many levels. Every night I fell asleep to the banging sounds of pots and pans and young men shouting.

During the European experience, I was reunited with my classmates.  As a Distance Learner, I had only met my Cohort-mates once during the first week of the program, but it was like meeting old friends again. The study-abroad experience, the high-touch academics and the distance learning technology, enabled this girl from a small town in Montana, to feel welcomed to campus and into a professionally diverse Cohort of hard-chargers and future business leaders. If you are looking for a graduate program that offers a great deal of flexibility and provides the tools to succeed, I highly recommend the MSGL program – and at least one of the study-abroad opportunities. You won’t regret it.

Debbie Bjerke graduated with Cohort 57 in early August. She currently resides in Clancy, Montana and is in the process of transitioning from a career in Archaeology to a new career in business. For information regarding the MSGL Program and/or MSGL study abroad opportunities, please contact the MSGL Marketing and Recruitment Manager, Scott Handley at  


“This is our Taksim, this is our Istanbul!”

June 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Thirteen MSGL students, along with 24 MBA/International MBA; 14 M.S. in Executive Leadership and 9 Monterrey TEC students, are in Istanbul, Turkey this week participating in a USD study abroad program focused on graduate level global business topics. Arriving from Berlin, Germany after their first week of study, most of the MSGL students had no idea they would be leaving the stable (and almost stoic) environ of western Europe for a powder keg battle for Turkey’s future centered just blocks from their hotel in Taksim Square.

Nightly, tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have been streaming into the square loudly calling for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down. Protests, that started as an outcry against a local development project in Taksim Square, have snowballed into widespread anger against what critics say is the government’s increasingly authoritarian agenda that threatens the basic rights of citizens here in Turkey.

Protestors Gathering at Taksim Square

Protestors Gathering at Taksim Square

“We are among a diverse people all seeking a common goal – it’s inspiring,” said Jeff  Haislet (Full-time MBA student). “It is very interesting that the Turkish people are thanking us (non-Turks here in Istanbul) for being here and supporting their cause,” shares Scott Mackin (Part-time MBA student).

“I feel honored to be witness to the Turkish people, especially the women, fighting for their freedom of thought and freedom of voice,” emphasized Trish Mahler (MSGL, Cohort 57).

“While initially we discouraged students from venturing into the throes of the protests, the generally peaceful demonstrations have been too much of a lure to our students’ global policy interests to keep them away,” says Stephanie Kiesel, Director of the MSGL program who is accompanying the students in Turkey.

The students will be heading home on Saturday, but will likely never forget their opportunity to be present in Turkey at a time when cries of “This is our Taksim, this is our Istanbul!” rang in the air.

My MSGL Experience: Ryan Clardy (MSGL ’11) Recalls Life Before, During and After His Time in the Program

March 5, 2013 Leave a comment

The MSGL Program was one of the best decisions I have ever made but for many more reasons than just receiving my Masters Degree.  For starters, the curriculum was “real world” based, not just text book reading and the ability to regurgitate what you read.  A few perfect examples of this are the professors themselves, several of whom have had substantial success in their professional fields and are now taking an active role as educators.  Or the capstone project, where my cohort got to work with Taylor Dunn to help devise a strategy around launching their products in various European markets.  These examples were valuable to applying what we were learning in the MSGL Program to our personal professional endeavors.

Of course the best experience I had in MSGL program was the 2 weeks abroad studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  That was the experience of a lifetime!  We studied several companies, but the one I enjoyed the most was Wal-Mart Argentina.  We toured their headquarters; met with their CFO, and received great insight into the challenges that a large retailer has in Latin America and the strategies they have in place to overcome them.  Not to mention that the city, people, and culture were incredible!

Ryan Clardy (far right) is a 2011 MSGL Graduate. He was a member of Cohort 50.

Ryan Clardy (far right) is a 2011 MSGL Graduate. He was a member of Cohort 50.

I have been with Automatic Data Processing for nearly 8 years and was there during my tenure as an MSGL Student. I started as an Account Manager for small businesses right out of college in 2005.  I would work with small companies on various outsourcing service projects, but since completing the MSGL Program I have been promoted to Automatic Data Processing’s Major Accounts division where I am now the District Manager of the Central Coast of California. I work with companies now that have roughly a few hundred to a thousand employees and consult on outsourcing services to help global integration, new market entry, compliance, and the overall strategic initiatives of the company.  Having completed the MSGL Program helped me immensely in getting my promotion.

I would recommend the MSGL program to anyone, but to be more specific anyone looking to grow and differentiate themselves while they further their careers.  I had a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration and rather than choosing the MBA route, I wanted something that had a little more focus on the global side of business and one that would separate me from everyone else who had an MBA.  The MSGL Program was perfect!  Not only did I establish friendships the will last a life time, experience studying abroad, learn from great professors, and get my degree, but I was able to get ahead quickly and make myself much more valuable and marketable in my professional career.

For more information regarding the MSGL Program, please contact the Marketing and Recruitment Manager, Scott Handley at  

MSGL in Buenos Aires: A Cultural Buffet

January 24, 2013 4 comments

Current MSGL Student and member of Cohort 58, Mareo McCracken, shares his experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mareo was enrolled in International Strategic Planning and Management during Intersession, 2013.  


Mareo at Wal-Mart Argentina

Buenos Aires is a cultural buffet. A place that offers wonderful experiences for all types of tastes; and as participants in the MS in Global Leadership (MSGL) Study Abroad Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina in early January, we definitely got stuffed. The city has everything. Historic landmarks, magnificent architecture and of course, mouth-watering cuts of beef. The hardest part about being in Buenos Aires was choosing a different place to eat dinner each evening.  For once you choose, you were missing out on so many others! Although Argentina is located in South America, it often felt as though we were in Europe, with similar architectural styles and foods that encouraged new experiences. The Señor Tango show was one of the many highlights of the trip. By experiencing the unique culture we were able to get a better understanding of how business gets done in Argentina, specifically in Buenos Aires. The company visit to the Wal-Mart Argentina Headquarters certainly helped us gain a better understanding of the Argentine way of conducting business. It is because of the cultural richness of this massive city that our academic experience was so unique. We were able to immediately apply this newly acquired first-hand knowledge of “business the Argentine way”  to the class we were taking, International Strategic Planning and Management, with Distinguished Professor of International Business, Dr. Jaime Alonso Gomez.


Mareo (center) and other MSGL Students at Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires

We enjoyed a city tour, which provided an opportunity to visit a handful of historic neighborhoods and landmarks. Places like the new riverfront community of Puerto Madero, La Recoleta Cemetery, and the historic neighborhood of La Boca – the birthplace of the Tango. While in La Boca we saw Estadio Alberto J. Armando (or La Bombonera) where the famous Boca Juniors play soccer. We also had the opportunity to visit the uniquely colorful street called El Caminito. While a mix between the Amsterdam Row Houses and the brightly painted buildings of Pelourinho, Salvador in Brazil, El Caminito has a culture all its own. So many different shades and styles, all painted bright and combining together to create very vibrant community. Something you need to see to understand. Some of the other historic landmarks included the many theatres, famous cafes, museums, political and military houses, and government buildings.


Madres de Mayo

The most inspirational part of the trip was witnessing the “Madres de Mayo” marching around the Plaza de Maya Square. This activity is repeated every Thursday. We were lucky enough to witness it; it was an incredible experience. You could see the pain in their eyes and you could feel the determination they possessed in making sure that their children did not die in vain.

To take break from the big city we went to the outskirts of town to the Tigre River. There we had the opportunity to take a guided boat tour of the river along with the islands that people live on during the summer months. What I found to be incredibly unique is that most, if not all, commerce in this area must be conducted via watercraft. The Tigre Islands were peaceful and calm; a stark difference from the hustle and bustle of the city. As we made our way down the river, we could see children smiling and laughing as they jumped off of their small individual piers into the river. It was a nice reminder than no matter where you go in the world, if children are able, they know how to enjoy themselves.

The USD MSGL Study Abroad program in Buenos Aires was culturally and socially uplifting while stimulating each of us academically. We were able to connect with our classmates, meet new people from other schools, countries, and cohorts. We deepened our relationships and experienced new things together, all while participating in a program that encouraged us to learn and grow in the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.


Mareo McCracken (Back-Row, Center) is a member of Cohort 58 and is currently in his 2nd Semester in the MSGL Program. Mareo is the Director of Business Development and Investor Relations at the Prudent Investors Network. He currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The MS in Global Leadership (MSGL) Program offers three opportunities to study abroad in Europe, China and South America.

Contact Scott Handley for more details at

The Importance of Going Global: Lisa Thompson of Cohort 56 Reflects on Her Experience in China

September 14, 2012 1 comment

The opportunity to participate in study abroad as part of the MSGL Program is one of the key reasons I chose to apply to USD. It is important to get a great education at a recognized, accredited university, but it is icing on the cake to be able to actually apply course content during your studies.

MSGL Students in China

MSGL Students in China

Working with my Sr. Director of Human Resources, who was assisting me in chartering the course of my Masters program, we agreed that China would be a priority trip abroad, because at the time it was an emerging market for our organization. So, to China we traveled in August, 2012. Prior to the trip, students were requested to review recent business articles, practice a “little” language, and learn what we could about the culture. I also interviewed a colleague working in China to glean some valuable information.

Arriving in Shanghai initially squelched my excitement about the trip . . . it was a metropolis that reminded me of a cross between Manhattan and Vegas–big city during the day and “pretty” bright lights at night. What I didn’t realize until later is that big business is done in big cities! Shanghai turned out to be the perfect location for seeing the workings of a major city and experiencing firsthand the complexities of doing business in a foreign country.

Lisa and a New Friend

Lisa and a New Friend

We started in Shanghai with company tours to Intercontinental Hotel Group and WD-40 where we met with the President and an expatriate respectively. In the Comparative Management course that was offered during our trip, Dr. Pavett conducted several class sessions and encouraged our participation in pertinent case studies to analyze the best course of action for difficulties experienced with cross-cultural and virtual teams. What really pulled the course abroad together for us were the individual interactions we had with local people—we experienced the culture, the food and the history, which helped us to develop a better understanding of China.

The second part of our trip took us to Beijing by magnetic levitation train at 180 mph. You have to experience this at least once in your lifetime! Beijing was much more typical of what I expected—less big city and more time with “the people.” We were blessed to have had two trip mates that are living and working in China (Dean and Eli—Distance Learners). They made the trip extremely informative and educational for us, especially since Eli was doing business for his organization during our trip. He was able to share some of his challenges as an expat in a foreign country.

I highly recommend that MSGL students (and those from other programs) participate in at least one trip abroad as part of their studies. You will come away with information about market opportunities, challenges and business practices in the country, as well as the impact of politics and culture on businesses. This course will prepare you to recognize the differences in cultural value systems and behaviors in the global environment, how they affect leadership, and how you as a global leader can succeed in foreign cultures. This experience pulls the entire program together. Enjoy!

Lisa Thompson (Cohort 56) is currently in her third semester of the program. She serves as the Associate Director of Continuous Process Improvement for Hologic Gen-Probe in San Diego, California.

For more information regarding MSGL’s International Opportunities, please contact Scott Handley ( or visit USD’s Ahlers Center for International Business.

Success Can Be Bittersweet: A Cohort 53 Graduate Shares Her Thoughts on Completing the Program

April 26, 2012 1 comment

After countless study sessions at Starbucks, missing birthday parties here and there and constantly coordinating study sessions with my MSGL cohort mates, all the hard work is about to pay off! It seems like just yesterday I started the program.

Shane (Cohort 53) at the Great Wall of China

Shane (Cohort 53) at the Great Wall of China

Initially, my fears about re-entering academia and life as a full-time student seemed daunting. I dreaded the level of commitment and social sacrifice that comes with the pursuit of any advanced degree. Yet, here I am almost 1 1/2 years later, confident I made the right decision. Most importantly, I feel armed to excel in the professional world. The MSGL program has taught me how to commit to a project from beginning to end, how to manage my time effectively, and really how to take something positive away from EVERY experience, even if it is not exactly what I envisioned it to be. I learned how to be flexible and adaptable above all. It is bitter sweet that this chapter is coming to an end, but I am positive that whatever challenges come my way, I will be ready to conquer them head on. Cheers to Cohort 53 and good luck to all future MSGL cohorts!

Shabnam “Shane” Karimi is a graduate of Cohort 53.  During her time as a student, Shane was instrumental in the creation of a Study Abroad opportunity in China.  While abroad she enrolled in International Comparative Management and Leadership.     

Study Abroad: Comparative Management in China

September 19, 2011 4 comments

This past August, I joined fellow MS in Global Leadership students from Cohorts 52, 53 and 54 on a highly successful study abroad trip to mainland China.  The trip was the first of its kind for the MSGL program, and had been driven by an increasing interest among students to have an experience that went above and beyond the typical European or South American study abroad program.

Those of us who managed to dodge a passing typhoon on the flight over took advantage of the first day to explore downtown Shanghai, a city with a staggering 23 million people.  The remainder of our week in Shanghai was filled with a walking tour of local eateries by an American expat, a visit to the historic Yu Garden and Jade Buddhist Temple, and a meet and greet at WD40’s distribution center at the outskirts of the city.

MSGL Students at WD40 in ChinaUSD alumni Stephanie Barry manages the WD40 office with about 30 local employees, and took the time to explain some of the challenges that managers of foreign companies face when operating in a Communist country.  One of WD40’s biggest challenges in China is that it must convince vendors to not opt for counterfeit brands, a telltale sign of the disparity between our two countries’ enforcement of property rights.

When we were not taking in the sights, we listened to lectures by USD’s Dr. Cynthia Pavett as part of MSGL’s Comparative Management course (MSGL 503 is normally taught in MSGL’s third semester).  We also enjoyed Q&A sessions with Professor He Jianmin of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics along with local restaurant operations director and German expat Andre Lense.

After our course work was completed in Shanghai, we flew to Beijing for a whirlwind two-day tour of China’s most recognizable tourist destinations.  Our first stops were to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and were followed by a rickshaw ride to lunch at a local household (meals in China were frequently served on a Lazy Susan, which let us try multiple items in each sitting).  The second day was devoted entirely to hiking China’s Great Wall, and was the biggest highlight of the trip for many of us.

MSGL Students at the Great Wall of China

As a veteran of two SBA study abroad trips in my first two semesters, I was proud by the level of camaraderie and professionalism shared by my fellow travellers.  More impressive was the fact that this trip was built from the ground up in six short months, and was a testament to the “can-do” attitude that is exhibited by many candidates in our program.  Such initiative will be needed if future cohorts want to plan a trip of their own, but this trip proves that such plans would be very worthwhile.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of USD faculty and students.  Bob Schoultz, Dr. Denise Dimon provided support for us at the administrative level.  Katie Singleton, Stephanie Kiesel and Suzy Wadsworth helped with planning and logistics, while Sam Chung travelled with us to China and provided Dr. Pavett with further logistical support.

The idea for the trip came from Shabnam Karimi of MSGL Cohort 53, and with help from Cohort Leader Troy Hanson, she drummed up support from her fellow students and faculty.  Overall, I think that our trip demonstrated that all you really need to enhance your grad school experience are some motivated people who want to try something new.

Sean is a graduate student in MSGL Cohort 53.  He earned his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the US Naval Academy in 2003, and now serves as a Naval Helicopter Pilot at Naval Air Station North Island.  He traveled to Germany, Turkey, and China this summer for study abroad.

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