Bryant’s International Business program is among the top 25 in the nation, according US News and World Report’s 2018 rankings, and the Carolyn Rafaelian International Business Practicum is among the top reasons.
Students, faculty, administrators, and parents looked on in December as students presented their capstone projects to an in-person and online audience. Presentation day is the culmination of a semester of consulting work for partner businesses.
Unlike many other schools’ programs, Bryant emphasizes practical, hands-on experience for its International Business students. Student teams are assigned a comprehensive business-consulting project with a client company, and they work all semester to research, analyze, recommend, report, and present their findings. A panel of industry and alumni judges evaluates the capstone projects for their depth of research and analysis, the innovation of their recommendations, and the effectiveness of their presentations. This year's top honors went to the teams working for Rhode Island companies Collette (a guided travel company), and Teknor Apex (a thermoplastic compound solutions provider).
"The most valuable aspect of the Practicum is that it asks us to put everything we’ve learned to the test."
“It’s taking an entire semester of work and boiling it all down to 15 minutes!” said Jennifer L. Foster ’19, shortly after her winning team finished its presentation.
Her team analyzed new market opportunities for Collette, and recommended a new line of tour offerings for families with children that could open new revenue streams and become a new competitive differentiator for the company.
“The most valuable aspect of the Practicum is that it asks us to put everything we’ve learned to the test,” Foster said, adding that her team always worked to go the extra mile. “We used all our skills from three years of IB education, combined with our own creativity and innovation. We didn’t have detailed instructions; it was up to us to set our own direction and figure out our next steps along the way.” In that way, she says, it closely mimics real-world experience.
IB Program Director and Associate Finance Professor Andres Ramirez, Ph.D., compares the Practicum to a business consulting operation working on discrete projects with businesses. “This is very real, and the companies we’re working with expect a quality product.”
Most of the client companies funnel into the program through the John H. Chafee Center for International Business, which also offers similar consulting opportunities to a growing list of companies seeking to expand their businesses both domestically and abroad. Demand for the service is expanding as companies discover what Bryant offers.
“Partner companies have told me that the value of the consulting they receive is far greater than the fee they pay to participate,” says Gerald Cohen, an international trade specialist who manages the practicum programs for the Chafee Center – more helpful, even, than the consulting services some companies have received from expensive international firms. The businesses benefit, but of course, it’s the students who grow the most from the experience. And the alumni who’ve gone through the program think of it as an invaluable part of their educations.
Elena L. Barkalova ’11, Senior Manager, Wholesale/Business Development, at RI-based jewelry company Alex and Ani and a member of Bryant’s International Business Advisory Council, returned to campus as a Practicum judge. The International Business Practicum, she says, is a great way for students to develop business acumen. "The practicum taught me how to strategize and how to analyze a business market or an industry," she says. "It was a phenomenal experience."