Bryant University’s International Business (IB) Program, ranked among the top 20 international business programs nationally by U.S. News and World Report, has grown to be recognized nationally and internationally over the last 10 years for its excellence, rigor and research at the highest level, as well as for its commitment to student success.
So what sets the Bryant program apart from others around the country?
“The precise combination of all the elements of this program make it entirely unique, and that’s by design,” says Bryant’s College of Business Dean Madan Annavarjula, Ph.D., a pioneer in developing unique international programs and the program’s co-founder. “We’ve sought to build a best practices program.”
By graduation IB students have taken 10 unique courses in international business, a functional concentration, and a second language up to intermediate proficiency. They have studied and interned overseas in Bryant’s customized IB study abroad program, run a virtual publicly traded multinational company, and helped a real business expand globally by serving as consultants in a practicum organized by Bryant’s John H. Chafee Center for International Business, with real-world, experiential learning woven throughout.
Not least of the offerings are its inspirational faculty members from around the world, who combine the latest theory with direct industry experience. They are scholars who contribute to their field at the highest level, says Annavarjula, as well as dedicated teachers who seek to understand their students’ strengths, challenges and aspirations.
“Like other Bryant IB faculty, I believe my research and teaching have inspired and prepared our students to be socially responsible thinkers, leaders and innovators for successful professional careers within the global business community.”
With the program reaching new heights this past year in college rankings, we asked several IB program faculty to discuss some of the ways they promote engaging learning experiences in the classroom that support academic excellence in the program. Here’s an in-depth look at some of their answers.
IB research + innovative teaching = global learning
Academics and professionals in the field aren’t the only ones who benefit from Bryant faculty’s research activities—students do as well. How? Through innovative teaching practices that enhance student learning and prepare them for the real world.
“I always use my research in the classroom,” says Diya Das, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Bryant’s College of Business and Professor of Management. Her research has been published in top scholarly journals and focuses on the issues of identity under conditions around globalization, which she incorporates into case studies she’s written for her Global Human Resources Management class. Her guest teaching post at the prestigious Aalto University in Finland and travel within Bryant’s IB study abroad program also add insights. “Each of these experiences helps me understand business practices and cultural practices in different parts of the world, and I bring all these examples to class,” adds Das.
There, she uses engaging, updated teaching methods to optimize learning for the students, like many Bryant faculty. “Teaching at Bryant is a wonderful experience. It is extremely interactive. I believe in flipping the classroom and have students engage in a large number of active learning exercises. I’m a firm believer of inductive learning, where there is a lot of discussion and not much lecturing. I think that helps our students to be active learners and thinkers,” says Das.
“We don’t have large classes, so a professor gets to interact with each student. This high level of access that students have to professors and vice versa provides for a rich and productive learning environment.”
Similarly, in innovative practicum and capstone courses where teams of students apply course concepts and prepare for their careers by partnering with companies in real-world consulting projects, Professor of Management Crystal Jiang, Ph.D., an expert on emerging economies firms, incorporates her research findings that have been published in top-ranked scholarly journals into the students’ experience so they can propose appropriate strategic solutions to companies. Jiang, a former investment manager, is also an Executive Board Member and the President of the U.S. Northeast Chapter of the Academy of International Business (AIB), the largest global community of international business scholars.
“Like other Bryant IB faculty, I believe my research and teaching have inspired and prepared our students to be socially responsible thinkers, leaders and innovators for successful professional careers within the global business community,” says Jiang.
IB Program Director and Lecturer of Management Jacqueline Saslawski, JD, MPIA, an expert on global experiential learning in the context of career readiness and 21st century skills in-demand by employers, uses her research as the instructor for the IB Practicum course, where senior-year students apply all they have learned in real-life consultancy projects organized by the Chafee Center. Using an innovative tool she developed with former colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh that is the result of their 2-year comprehensive analysis of graduate students, she helps students showcase their learnings from the course to employers. Using the tool, students process and unpack their practicum experience, identify learned skills and how to communicate them. She has also tailored the process for internships and study abroad experiences that her students have undertaken.
"The IB curriculum develops 21st century skills, and explaining their value to employers is important. We look at the students’ explanation of those experiences as the last mile that needs to be undertaken,” says Saslawski.
“I’ve traveled and worked on all but two continents. These experiences are extremely helpful in conveying the message of interrelatedness of global events and definitely contribute to a livelier and more exciting discussion and conversation in my classrooms.”
As a dedicated advisor for the active student organization International Business Association, which aims to engage IB students with the entire Bryant IB community and in co-curricular activities, she helps students to further understand and appreciate international business.
In addition, Bryant IB faculty are an international set; many are from areas outside of the U.S., such as Germany, Croatia, China, Uzbekistan, India and Turkey, just to name a few, and all have completed their graduate and doctorate studies at top institutions in the United States. All of this is valuable to them as IB researchers, but also as effective teachers, faculty say.
“I’ve traveled and worked on all but two continents. These experiences are extremely helpful in conveying the message of interrelatedness of global events and definitely contribute to a livelier and more exciting discussion and conversation in my classrooms,” explains Srđan Zdravković, Ph.D., Professor of Marketing, who this year won multiple research awards and had several top-tier academic journal publications in international marketing. He also traveled with students to Aix-en-Provence in the summer of 2021 for the program’s customized study abroad program.
Mentoring experts, at home and abroad
IB faculty explained that with Bryant’s unique commitment to teaching, IB students and faculty also develop closer relationships, which further enhances student learning. “We don’t have large classes, so a professor gets to interact with each student. This high level of access that students have to professors and vice versa provides for a rich and productive learning environment,” says Saslawski.
Faculty say a uniquely illustrative example of the high-access approach that enhances student learning occurs with the required study abroad semester. Through Bryant’s customized IB study abroad program, IB students live, intern and learn in a country that speaks the students’ second language as a primary language. Bryant IB faculty travel overseas to teach a 3-week business course in the abroad students’ host countries, prior to the start of their semester. This gives IB students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a new country alongside mentoring, expert faculty and fellow Bryant IB students.
The course combines daily classes about the host country with field visits to area businesses as well as cultural and historical sites, which faculty debrief students on as they go.
Saslawski taught the course in the summer of 2021 in Seville, Spain.
“It’s wonderful to see how students navigate being abroad, and how much development and growth takes place.”
“It’s wonderful to see how students navigate being abroad, and how much development and growth takes place in those first 3 weeks,” states Saslawski, who says the close faculty-student relationships help spur this growth. “Our students have a range of passions and interests that contribute to the experience abroad. In turn, the faculty have a lot of global experience and perspective to share with the students.”
“I have built terrific relationships with students during these experiences,” says Trustee Professor of Management Michael Roberto, D.B.A., who has taught the course in Aix-en-Provence and Barcelona. Roberto has conducted research for his books around the globe and has authored lauded business simulations; his work focuses on how managers make decisions, lead teams, and solve complex problems. During the course, and particularly in field visits to area businesses, “Naturally, there are some very important cultural differences that emerge that impact business decisions,” which Roberto enjoys exploring with the students. Roberto has facilitated leadership development programs and consulted at companies in a range of countries and for firms and government organizations such as Mars, Deloitte, Google, Target, Apple, the FBI, NASA and more, and he has taught in Tokyo, Japan, at the Nomura School of Advanced Management’s executive education program, all experiences he brings to discussions with students.
Likewise, Professor of Finance and Sarkisian Chair in Financial Services Peter Nigro, Ph.D., who has taught the course in Vietnam and London, says, “The custom study abroad classes have been one of my favorite courses to teach. You get to know the kids really well – you teach, dine and hang out with them in a new country. Class extends well beyond the classroom—it is constant interaction.” Nigro served as a Senior Financial Economist at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) for over a decade and is an expert on bank risk-taking regulation in the US and EU. His research interests include small business finance, credit risk modeling, bank compliance issues, and more recently, fintech and the technological innovations that are revolutionizing finance around the world. He says he enjoys not only teaching the students while abroad—but learning from them as well. “Bryant IB students are keenly aware of the importance of culture in the business environment,” he says.
Thanks to the “IB ecosystem” at Bryant, “Students not only learn the practical aspects of international business, but they also bond with each other very well,” says Annavarjula.
Learning that creates lifetime bonds
“Our IB curriculum is very rigorous, but because we take such great interest in our students, they achieve what we’ve set out for them to do, and they do it well,” says Annavarjula.
Having several components to the “IB ecosystem” at Bryant—a successful mix of faculty, curriculum, travel components, experiential learning, consulting projects, corporate connections, active alumni participation, IB student club and more—creates a number of benefits.
“Students not only learn the practical aspects of international business, but they also bond with each other very well, which is a phenomenal advantage,” including for knowledge retention, he says.
Agrees Saslawski, “It’s a very active ecosystem, and so students identify as IB, love being IB and make life-long friends personally and professionally.”