Global Business: Whitman Launches New Course Options for Students Studying Abroad in London

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For decades, Whitman School of Management students studying in London through Syracuse Abroad were focused on fulfilling elective requirements. All that’s changed through new course programming introduced in the Spring 2023 semester, as Whitman students can now earn credits toward their majors while learning in one of the world’s major business centers.


“The courses offered through Syracuse Abroad that students have taken in the past were really oriented toward general education,” says Catherine Maritan, professor of management. “But with London a hub for global business, it seemed logical to build some programming for our students to allow them to make progress toward their degrees in a meaningful way.”


That’s easier said than done.  Syracuse students traditionally study abroad during junior year. At the Whitman School, most coursework common among all business majors falls during the first two years, with major-specific courses in the junior and senior years. Maritan spent spring 2022 in the U.K. learning about Syracuse Abroad London, studying how other specialty programs — such as design and architecture — operate there and investigating experiential learning opportunities.


To create a meaningful experience for business students regardless of major, Whitman created a project-based course for students in London. “We launched the course with no notice and had seven Whitman students who had already committed to a semester in London enroll,” she says. “We’re anticipating a lot more interest in the future.”


Half of the course is common content for all students, revolving around analyzing business news and events, and field trips. The second portion is an individual or group project focused on students’ majors.


During the pilot semester, marketing students worked on a group project analyzing customer reviews for an online insurance agency and making recommendations for responding, particularly to negative reviews. Two finance students conducted individual projects, one researching stocks for a financial advisory firm’s new fund and the other working with a corporate investment advisor in the green energy sector.


“It’s not consulting. It’s not an internship. These are academic projects based on real data with outcomes intended to be useful to the sponsoring organization,” says Maritan.


The process of building that course got Maritan thinking about the core courses all Whitman students take during their second year of study, three in the Fall semester and three in the Spring semester. For the first time in Spring 2023, Core 2 (Managing in a Global Setting, Introduction to Strategic Management and Managing and Leading People) was offered in London, as well as Syracuse. “We were not in a position to move on this until the beginning of the 2022 Fall semester, so, within a span of about two weeks, we offered it to Whitman sophomores [CAM1] and eight students to enroll for spring,” she says.


The goal was to offer the same academic content with the same rigor students would receive on campus, while taking advantage of the unique business culture. “Because we have a small number of students, the classes operate more like seminars and we can do more experientially with them,” says Maritan. “And by offering this study abroad experience for sophomores, our hope is to free their schedules for internships or other experiential learning experiences in their junior and senior years.”


That was a draw for Michaela Fry ’25, a dual major in business analytics in the Whitman School and television, radio and film (TRF) in the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Fry wanted to study abroad but also wanted to pursue the Newhouse School’s program in Los Angeles in the Spring semester of her junior year.


“Being able to complete Core 2 in London allows me to do both and to stay on schedule with each major,” she says.


Although initially intimidated by the small class size in London, Fry now says that was one of the program’s greatest benefits. “The classes became much more discussion and activity based, which was very engaging. I feel like I learned and understand the material in a different way than just listening to lectures and studying on my own,” she says. “The professors really got to know all of us students as individuals, and our little cohort became close friends.”


Another benefit of the small class size, she says, was the ability to bring in speakers for group activities and numerous outside field trips. For example, students participated in the Business of Wimbledon program, spending a day on site learning about the business aspect of the Wimbledon tournament, which was augmented by classroom discussions about business models and managing large enterprises. Other field trips included site visits at WeWork, Harvey Nichols and a walking tour of London’s financial center.


Students had subscriptions to the Financial Times to follow London business news, and they were required to report a business news story daily, as well as write several more comprehensive analyses throughout the course of the semester. “We were seeing the concepts we were learning in class play out in real time,” says Fry.


And that’s really the point of study abroad, says Maritan. “Business is global, and to be able to study business in an environment that is not US-centric provides a perspective on different labor practices, different trends and attitudes, and how that affects how companies operate, as well as the workforce and how you manage people,” she says. “Part of the University’s strategic plan is to help our students become engaged global citizens, and I think Whitman’s new offerings in London do just that.”


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