College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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LEAD Gains a Global Perspective on Business


By Melissa Silverberg

When Ashton Clark's parents refused to give him an allowance, they wanted to teach him lessons about hard work and a better appreciation for money. They had no idea their simple lesson would one day lead their son overseas to study to expand his study and love for business.

Clark, now a junior, is one of the 18 College of Business LEAD students, who will be travelling to Costa Rica from Jan. 3 – 10.

LEAD, or the Leadership Education and Development program, is a partnership program between the nation's top Business schools and corporations that allows outstanding high school juniors from diverse backgrounds to schools like Illinois and engages them with the College of Business as a tool to recruit them to the University, said Jewell White, director of the LEAD program and assistant dean for admission and recruitment.

Once at the University, Clark and his fellow LEAD students have been able to continue their involvement in the program through one-on-one interaction with the dean of his college, speeches from executives, corporate exposure, and other experiences such as this trip.

The trip to Costa Rica is planned to help the students expand their education and gain a global perspective on business, as well to be a cultural excursion, White said.

"I think they will get a sense that the world is a big place," White added. "So they need to get that cultural appreciation of differences, which can give them a better understanding of the global economy."

Illinois is the first to try the program and this is the first year the group will take an international trip, but the organizers are hoping to make the trip an annual event and expand it beyond students currently participating in LEAD.

"We thought it would be a great idea to start doing an annual study abroad trip for them," said Christine Gozdziak, director of international programs. "Minority students tend not to study abroad as much as some other students do. It's a nice opportunity to raise the number of non-traditional students that are studying abroad."

Among the activities the students will participate in is a trip to a coffee plantation, visiting local companies, and a trip to EARTH University. The students will also get to do some fun activities such as, visiting a volcano that erupts 40 times a day and seeing a local dinner show with fireworks in the mountains.

"Costa Rica is very much an up and coming business location," Gozdziak said. "The main goal is to see how business is done in a very different culture."

Clark and his fellow students are excited about the learning and cultural experiences they will have on their trip.

"It's instrumental for students such as myself to have that international experience," Clark said. "The world today is becoming ever more diverse."

Clark went on to explain that his idea of diversity means more than just different skin colors.

"Being able to go to another country and learn about their lives will help me to be a more well-rounded individual overall."

While Clark said he is not fluent in Spanish, he is not too worried about the language barrier. Clark added that he is very excited to experience the culture, the dancing in particular of Costa Rica.

"Every business student should have international experience," Clark said. "Businesses nowadays are becoming more global."

Payment for the trip will be a combination of money from the students themselves, the College of Business, and the Business International Program.

"Business is becoming more and more international every day," Gozdziak said. "We are hoping to really excite people about studying abroad."

White also said he hopes the experience bonds the students together as friends.

"Once they come back to campus we hope this experience allows them to deepen their friendship and their appreciation of the opportunities they have within the College of Business," White said.

UIUC College of Business