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Overview of International Business Seminars

International Business Seminars (IBS) is a third party provider of high quality business oriented study abroad programs. The programs are structured around a variety of business focused activities including company visits where students hear from business executives, plant visits that allow access tours of manufacturing facilities, lectures from specialists in a variety of different areas, and visits to historic cultural sites.

IBS was founded in 1975 by Dan Brenenstuhl while he was a doctoral student at Indiana University. Dan continued to manage IBS after leaving IU to take a faculty position at Arizona State. He is currently Emeritus Professor there after having retired from ASU a few years ago and continues to manage IBS along with a staff of five people from an office in Scottsdale, AZ. Since founding IBS Dan and the IBS staff have provided over 24,000 students from across the US the opportunity to experience to interact with business executives in a variety of locations including Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia/New Zealand.

Types and Specifics of Seminars

IBS seminars are considered “open enrollment” in the sense that any seminar will be composed of students from a number of universities from across the country. The programs generally consist of 20-35 students. There are generally three open enrollment seminars offered each year (two during winter break and one during the summer) at the undergraduate level and two targeted towards graduate students (one during winter break and one in the summer). For example, in winter 2013-2014 there are undergraduate seminars that run from December 27 to January 12 (London, Paris, Geneva, Heidelberg, and Amsterdam) and from December 27 to January 6 (London, Brussels, and Paris) as well as a graduate seminar that runs from January 3 to January 12 (Paris and London). For summer 2014 the UG seminar scheduled from May 20 to June 10 (Rome, Florence, Innsbruck, Munich, Reims, Paris, and London). The graduate seminar is scheduled from May 19 to May 28 (Rome and Florence). There is also a program going to China in the summer for both graduates and undergraduates from May 17 to May 30 (Beijing and Shanghai).

The seminars listed above will visit a variety of business including but not limited to Lloyd’s of London, the Bank of England, Alcatel-Lucent, John Deere Werke, PricewaterHouse Coopers, 3M France, Wimbledon, IBM Italia, Eli Lilly, Microsoft Paris, and the EuroNext Stock Exchange. In addition, experts will give lectures on topics including cultural issues associated with living, working, and doing business in Europe as well as the evolution of, current state of, and future of the European Union. In addition to the business visits there are a number of cultural opportunities provided including bus tours of many of the larger cities as well as visits to specific cultural sites including King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany), the medieval town and castle of Gruyeres (Switzerland), Heidelberg Castle, Dachau Concentration Camp, and St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum.

Other Issues

A. Seminar Structure

IBS handles all elements of the seminars including air transportation to/from the US, bus transfers to/from in Europe, hotel arrangements, transportation between cities by bus and/or train, and setting up and coordinating the visits. Students usually arrive in the city where the seminar originates and is met at the airport by one of the 2 or 3 faculty members that are a part of each seminar. Students are transported to their hotel with other students who are arriving at similar times. On the next day there is a comprehensive orientation that covers a variety of topics including seminar expectations, a detailed overview of seminar visits, the process of moving from city to city, and an overview of the academic requirements.

B. Institution Issues

An institution that offers the IBS seminars as an option to their students only has two primary tasks in which to be involved. The first is to identify a way to offer credit for the seminar as IBS is not a course credit granting entity. Any credit for the seminars comes through the student’s university. Thus, the student pays tuition to their own university. The second task is to have a “champion” for IBS at the institution who can be responsible for recruiting students for the seminars and be the professor of record for assigning final grades. Owing to my long relationship with IBS I am more than happy to take on this role.

C. Academic Elements

IBS requires students to write two papers. The first consists of a review/analysis of each of the company visits. The second consists of an in-depth analysis of a specific firm. Students are usually provided some leeway regarding the second paper but are instructed that the paper must be more than a simple report but should go beyond that to identify a specific issue facing the company and identify ways to go about addressing that issue. However, IBS leaves it up to each university to add additional academic requirements at their discretion. These could include whatever other activities we believe would be beneficial to the student from additional writing assignments to meetings with the instructor who is assigning the grade to discuss various issues related to the seminar.

D. Seminar Costs

Seminar costs will vary from year to year and from seminar to seminar based on length of the seminar. Costs to the student are inclusive of everything except any individual spending. This includes round-trip airfare, bus transfers to/from airports, hotels, transportation between cities, subway/metro passes (Paris/Lodon), and any entrance fees for any cultural visits. The cost for the graduate program in Paris/London in January 2015 was $3961 exclusive of airfare. The most expensive seminar, the summer undergraduate seminar, was $6420 in May 2015.

I have been involved with IBS since 1999 having gone on at least one seminar per year in that time. In that time I have found the staff at IBS totally committed to providing the highest level of service and the most positive experience possible for students on their seminars. Most of my experience has been with MBA students and even those who are older and have had international travel experience generally indicate the seminar was one of the best experiences of their lives. I believe providing the opportunity for our students to be a part of an IBS seminar would be a perfect way to provide more international opportunities for our students.

Written by:

Thomas Baker, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Marketing
Culverhouse College of Commerce
The University of Alabama

Tom Baker
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