The 28 U.S. schools that receive governmental funding to promote international studies are looking at how to improve global perspectives in their schools and their communities—and how to succeed so well that such initiatives won’t even be needed in the future.

There’s virtually no such thing as a local market any more. Corporations around the world know that success often depends on their savvy about international markets, and business schools are learning the same lesson. “It’s not possible for business schools to have a domestic focus today,” says Greg Hundley of the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. “Either you’re globally competitive, or you’re not competitive at all.”

That wasn’t always the attitude, however, either for American businesses or American schools. “Business schools were slow to join the global phenomenon,” says Carol Rose of the CIBER at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “Business schools in the ’60s and ’70s didn’t pay too much attention to international issues.”

The U.S. Congress had attempted to address the problem in 1958, passing the National Defense Education Act. It was designed to improve U.S. foreign relations by requiring institutions of higher learning to establish programs for overseas study. However, most of the programs focused on liberal arts, and they had little impact on U.S. business or business studies.

The 1983 Business and International Education Program, established as part of Title VI of the Higher Education Act, provided two-year grants to support business and academic partnerships. In 1989, Title VI was expanded, enabling the Department of Education to fund Centers for International Business Education—or CIBERs, as many departments call themselves by adding “research” to the title. Business schools with CIBERs receive funding for curriculum development, research, and training that will enhance U.S. competitiveness.

“One of the functions of a CIBER is to ensure cross-disciplinary cooperation within the university so that professors are not buried in their micro ivory towers.”

The program has grown from five schools in its first year to 28 CIBERs in 2001. The Department of Education expects to disburse more than $8.5 million to these schools in 2002, but the money comes with a clear mandate about how it should be spent. CIBER schools must offer programs that encourage faculty to bring an international emphasis to their classrooms; offer international opportunities to doctoral, graduate, and undergraduate students; and promote community and academic outreach. Each CIBER fulfills these requirements in a different way.

“When we write a grant proposal, we go back to the intent and initiatives of the legislation, and we cross-cut it with issues of education on the graduate, undergraduate, Ph.D., and executive levels,” says John McIntyre of the CIBER at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “We look at faculty research, we look at outreach to the business community, and we do a matrix to see how we meet all of the congressional objectives across these generic type activities. Each CIBER comes up with a different mix.”

That final mix is always influenced by the basic personality of the host institution. The fact that KU’s business school boasts a center in international business ethics led its CIBER to plan a series of conferences on that topic. At Purdue, a land-grant technology university, the CIBER sometimes focuses on agricultural issues. For example, the CIBER conducts the Empirical Investigation into International Trade conference, which emphasizes the economics of international trade—a critical area for those concerned with a better understanding of agricultural markets. However, since Purdue’s department of foreign languages and literature is also strong, the CIBER also has an ongoing program in conjunction with that department to develop computer-based materials and multimedia for business language instruction.

Cross-Disciplinary Catalysts

While offering programs specifically for business school faculty and students (see “Program Highlights”), CIBERs also have a mandate to reach outside their own walls. “One of the functions of a CIBER is to ensure cross-disciplinary cooperation within the university so that professors are not buried in their micro ivory towers,” says McIntyre. At Georgia Tech, he says, this includes “encouraging languages across the curricula.” A French instructor might team up with a professor teaching about the European Union, or a teacher of international economics might partner with a professor of Japanese language.

At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the CIBER integrates business school programs with the liberal arts department. “We are active in ten different foreign languages,” the school’s Brad Farnsworth says. “We also have a summer institute designed specifically for liberal arts students who have no exposure to international business. If you’re a German major or political science major, you can go to the summer institute and find out what a career in international business is like. You get a lot more than career development— you really get a sizable chunk of our curriculum.”

At the University of California in Los Angeles, the CIBER has brought beginning Spanish into the business school and launched a pre-orientation program for international MBA students to acculturate them to the American classroom. In addition, the CIBER sponsors two summer language programs, in Spanish and Chinese. While UCLA’s Sara Tucker believes the CIBER has been instrumental in establishing such programs, she likes to believe they would—and, indeed, someday might—exist within other departments without the aid of CIBER sponsorship.

“I don’t think those things would exist without us, but our goal is always to make them so they can exist without us. In the case of the Chinese summer program, we’ve transferred the marketing to the UCLA summer session. That’s a different department altogether, and it has a much broader reach. As a result, the course could probably survive without us,” she says.

She sees the same trend in additional programs sponsored by the CIBER but taking root in other areas of the school. For instance, 50 or 60 MBA students from Anderson go overseas every year for a full quarter, in exchange with another university. “That program operates out of the MBA office. Even if we disappeared tomorrow, it would continue,” Tucker says. “We built a lot of the contacts for those exchanges but we have an assistant dean who’s very much behind growth in that area.”

Cooperative Efforts

Not only do CIBERs build bridges between departments at their own universities, they sponsor joint projects with other CIBERs. One consortium is involved in providing internationalization assistance to historically black colleges and universities. Another, the Southwestern Regional CIBER Conference, attracts faculty and administrators from two- and four-year colleges to help these institutions emphasize international teaching and research. A cluster of CIBERs also participates in the Doctoral Internationalization Consortium, an ongoing project that offers doctoral seminars to promote the international aspects of education in a range of areas.

“When you look at what CIBERs are doing, you can see they’re very much out front on issues. They even play a significant role in framing issues.”

The Pacific Asian Consortium for International Business Education and Research (PACIBER)—a collaboration of business schools in North America, Asia and Oceania—offers the PACIBER Diploma program for graduate business students who wish to gain international experience through coursework, study abroad, and internship experiences. Shirley Daniel, executive director of the PACIBER consortium and director of the CIBER at the University of Hawaii, notes that one of the most valuable benefits of being a member of PACIBER is having “first-hand access to deans, international business program directors, and faculty from top schools throughout Asia. This provides us with excellent insights into business events in Asia, as well as a window on emerging trends in international business education.”

More joint projects between CIBERs are in the development stage. The Purdue CIBER plans to work with Texas A&M to produce a major conference tentatively titled “The Global Food Fight.” Participants will examine two of the forces affecting global agriculture—biotechnology and intellectual property rights—from scientific, economic, and ethical viewpoints. “It will be an opinion leaders’ conference, designed to get national exposure at the level of public debate,” Hundley says.

Public Awareness

Many CIBER administrators see one of their roles as helping schools and other institutions focus that public debate on important topics. “When you look at what CIBERs are doing and what they’re proposing to do, you can see they’re very much out front on issues,” says Hundley. “They even play a significant role in framing issues.”

In the wake of September 11, some of those front-runner topics will be redefined. “One of the things we’re considering now is how terrorism affects international business,” says Shao Ping Yu of the CIBER at Columbia University in New York City. “Before September 11, people had a certain set of ideas about how international trade was going to function for the next few years, and now that’s changed.”

While CIBERs are poised to react quickly to world events that affect American business, it’s difficult to measure precisely the impact they’ve had in making American business more internationally focused. Globalization obviously would have occurred without them—but many believe their efforts have made their marks.

“It’s certainly true that in the late 1980s when the CIBER programs evolved, there was considerable concern about U.S. competitiveness,” says Hundley. “There’s less concern about that than there used to be. The CIBERs can’t take all the credit, but when I look at all that’s been done, it’s clear there’s been a pretty significant payoff.”

“To say the CIBER program has had an enormous impact on American competitiveness would be overstating the case, but it’s certainly had an impact,” says Kerry Cooper of the CIBER at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. “Because we work with other business schools, both in the region and nationally, the cumulative effect is a large multiple of the federal funding level.”

“What I see in the business community is a core of companies that are really committed to being successful internationally,” says Farnsworth of Michigan. “And I think we have been able to deliver some really valuable services to that group. Certainly those who attend our executive education programs are finding what we do extremely valuable, but they are self-selecting. They saw the ad and paid the money and came to Ann Arbor to learn. The thing is, they’re still a minority. I think we’ve been much less successful persuading those companies that really have no international interest that they really should spend more time developing exports or becoming internationally active. We’re very effective when we’re preaching to the converted, and I think we’ve made them more successful.”

To continue to promote the success of international business, McIntyre of the Georgia Institute of Technology believes it’s essential for CIBERs to be visible. “The office of the governor knows about us, the university administration is aware of us—they give us a call whenever there’s a chance for us to be relevant. It’s true that the budget is not very large, but it’s true also that universities should institutionalize the programs. Once we get them going, we show that they can be done and done successfully; then we’re not needed any more.”