Training ‘global citizens’ for global economy
Mirta Martin, dean of Virginia State University’s school of business, is always looking for new ways to help students learn.
For instance, Martin led the school’s push in 2010 to offer the core curriculum in a digital format. Today, students at the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business are able to download textbooks and other class materials at no cost.
Earlier this month, Gate B2 at the Richmond International Airport became one of Martin’s latest learning launch pads as VSU students Cierra Wilson and Valarie Simpson departed for China.
Wilson and Simpson are spending a semester at Shanghai University as part of VSU’s Caterpillar Global Citizen’s program. Two other VSU students, Nakeya Johnston-Peterson and Ulysses Knight, also are studying at the Chinese college.
“This is the very first time that Virginia State and the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business have sent any students overseas to China,” Martin said. “For these students, it’s a remarkable opportunity because not only are they making history, but also they get to experience a way of life that is quite different from here in the United States.”
Martin said the international experience will help prepare the students for careers in a global economy.
The life-changing adventure for the students started when Caterpillar Foundation invited VSU to apply for a grant through the U.S. State Department’s “100,000 Strong Initiative.”
President Obama launched the initiative in 2010 in an effort to increase the number and diversity of U.S. students who travel to China to study.
“This initiative seeks to prepare the next generation of American experts on China who will be charged with managing the growing political, economic and cultural ties between the United States and China,” according to the State Department’s website.
The program is supported financially by private companies and China has committed 10,000 scholarships for American students to study there.
Maxine Sample, director of VSU's George Bennett International Studies Institute, learned about Caterpillar’s invitation in September 2011.
She submitted a grant application and by October, VSU learned that it would receive $84,000 for the business school’s semester-long program and a second summer study program.
Sample was thrilled to learn that VSU students would be going to China in part because of her own experiences.
“[Education abroad] has been my passion since I won a Fulbright award in 1995 to teach in Nairobi,” she said. “I decided I would find ways for students to share that experience.”
Sample was at the airport along with Martin, other VSU staff and proud family members as Wilson, a senior management information systems major, and Simpson, a junior marketing major, started the first leg of their journey.
Flying to China is a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal if you’ve never flown. The flight was expected to take about 17 hours.
“I am 21 years old and I have been here on the ground for 21 years,” said Wilson, a Dinwiddie native. “I’m kind of scared.”
Despite a few pre-flight jitters, Wilson and Simpson, who had flown once before, were eager to get off the ground.
They were already thinking about the challenges and new adventures waiting for them when they got to China.
“It will probably be difficult to learn the [Mandarin] language,” Simpson said. “[Learning] their lifestyle will be fun and exciting because their customs are different from what I experience on a daily basis.”
They also expect the semester abroad to help when they start their careers.
“[This] will look good on my resume.” Wilson said. “Going to another country to experience a difference culture, how they live and how they work will make me more prepared for the real world.”
The students had a layover in Newark where they were joined by the two other VSU students. Then it was on to Shanghai to connect with other American students studying there this semester.
The VSU group is due back in the country in mid-May. By then Martin will no doubt already be well on her way to developing the next opportunity for another group of VSU students to take flight and learn.
A childhood dream realized
Ulysses Knight, from Phoenixville, Pa., is one of the four VSU students studying in Shanghai. Knight did not qualify for the Caterpillar Foundation grant.
However, Merri Incitti of the Reginald F. Lewis School of Business, said Knight is in China as a result of his long-held passion to study there.
“The faculty and staff of the [business college] came together to ensure that [Ulysses], who has had a true desire to go to China for as long as we have known him, would not be left behind,” Incitti said.
Some of his expenses are being covered by a George Bennett International Exchange student scholarship.
Knight, who flew out of Newark, shared his thoughts about the trip by email before he left for Shanghai:
Q. Why do you want to study in China? What do you think will be the greatest benefit of a semester in China?
A. I’ve always had a fascination with China's culture, infrastructural design and business concepts. The greatest benefit would be to get a firsthand look at the business concepts being done and learning them, as well as being immersed into the culture and lifestyle of another country, which in turn will make me a better leader of tomorrow.
Q. What do you think will be the most difficult part of the semester? What do you expect will be the most fun and why?
A. I believe the most difficult part will be the first week. At Virginia State University, I am very active with two jobs and being the senior class president so it will be a time of adjustment to becoming strictly a student. The most fun will be being able to experience one of my lifetime dreams. Most people dream about going to Disney Land as a little kid but my dream has always been to go to China.
Q. How have you prepared for the semester in China?
A. I have purchased the Mandarin Chinese edition from Rosetta Stone and made a blog and Skype account so I still have some type of communication with family and friends in the states.
Q. What do your parents think about the trip?
A. My parents are my biggest supporters and are very excited for the trip. Both my mother and father are always telling me, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to so if you’re going to dream, dream big!!’
Citizen Staff Reports 12/16/2013
Virginia Blood Services (VBS), the sole supplier of blood for more than 20 hospitals throughout the state of Virginia, is in need of blood donors to help replenish the local blood supply over the holidays.
A decline in blood donations is typical during the winter months as people become busy with holiday activities and travel. Patient needs remain steady, however, making it important for people to visit a VBS donor site or mobile drive to give blood. > Read more.
In Varina, one of the most anticipated events of the season is approaching. The 19th Annual Big Toy Parade will return on Dec 14, offering a “homey,” small-town feel that helps elicit holiday spirit among participants and spectators alike.
The parade, which begins at 3 p.m., is sponsored by the Battlefield Ruritans and Henrico County Parks and Recreation and is held in conjunction with the James River Boat Parade. It is led by a grand marshal along Old Osborne Turnpike and ends at the Osborne Boat Landing, where hundreds of community members gather to await nightfall and the arrival of lighted boats, concluding a festive holiday celebration. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 12/03/2013
The region's two premier youth soccer organizations – the Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers – have partnered to create Richmond United, a cost-free U.S. Soccer Development Academy program designed to serve the most talented players in the region. The arrangement marks the first time in U.S. Soccer Development Academy history that two member clubs have united their respective Academy programs.
Slated to begin play in the fall of 2014, Richmond United will field U13/14, U15/16 and U17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. The teams will train and play home games at two of the top soccer specific complexes in the nation, Ukrop Park and Striker Park. > Read more.
Eastern Henrico’s annual “Holiday on Parade” event is back tomorrow. Family-friendly activities will take place at various locations in the east end. The festivities will culminate with the 21st annual James River Parade of Lights. Also, several churches throughout the county are hosting holiday celebrations including West End Assembly of God, St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church and The Gayton Kirk Presbyterian Church. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Estilo charms, with a stylish twist, in Henrico’s Near West End
If you're looking for something a little different from the standard, ho-hum restaurant experience, look no further than The Village shopping center. Among the recent success stories to put down roots in The Village is Estilo, created by the owners of the gastropub Toast (featured in a Feb. 21 review in the Citizen), only a few steps away.
Estilo – which translates to style – offers a taste of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, among other countries, and a menu that rotates regularly through the rest of Central and South America. > Read more.
Disney’s Frozen shines as an instant classic
Disney has spent the past few years in search of that certain something; that ‘Disney Magic.’ It’s been a slow process. From The Princess and the Frog to Tangled to Wreck-it Ralph, the studio took slow steps, welcoming its princesses and fairy tales and musical numbers back into the fold. Every film was an improvement on the last, but none of them had anywhere near the charm or lasting appeal of the early ‘90s highs of the “Disney Renaissance.”
Frozen, by far, is the House of Mouse’s best attempt at a new Little Mermaid. > Read more.
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