Before her classmates had even moved into their dorms, incoming freshman Alex McCurdy had completed a core business course, participated in multiple corporate site visits, made a new group of college friends, and studied abroad for two weeks in Dublin, Ireland.
Talk about a serious head start.
This year, McCurdy was selected as one of the 11 inaugural Global Honors Fellows at the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration. Representing six states from around the country, they completed an early-exposure study abroad experience that was held in the weeks leading up to the start of the fall term.
“The fellowship was a great early start to push me into college. It got me ahead so I could take advantage of freshman year,” says McCurdy, who is from a suburb outside of Philadelphia.
Offered exclusively to incoming freshmen eligible for the Pitt Business Honors Program, the global fellowship is a four-week program held from mid-July to mid-August. Students spend two weeks in Pittsburgh completing an accelerated honors version of the four-credit course Managing in Complex Environments. Students also visit the Pittsburgh offices of Google, EY, KPMG, and Everyday Cafe. Then students travel to Dublin, Ireland to examine the country’s thriving technology and innovation sector through site visits to the European headquarters of Google, Microsoft, Airbnb, and more.
Cultural visits, both in Pittsburgh and in Dublin, are central to the fellowship experience. Within Dublin, highlights include a historical walking tour, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Gaelic football game, and excursions throughout Ireland, including the Cliffs of Moher, the harbor village of Howth, the cities of Galway and Kilkenny, and the Wicklow Mountains.
The cost of the Woodcock Global Honors Fellowship is significantly offset by a scholarship.
“It’s very unusual in higher education — especially within business schools — to offer a study abroad experience to students prior to the start of their first semester,” says Audrey J. Murrell, associate dean of Pitt Business and director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership.
“Our goal was to create a cohort-based program that would bring honors students together and develop their global competence as part of our mission of taking students From the Classroom, To the City, To the World,” Murrell says.
Ryan Weinberger, a Woodcock Global Honors Fellow student who plans to major in finance and accounting, says the company site visits were memorable, as were the good times shared with his classmates.
“The dynamic in our small group was really good. I feel like I made lifelong friends,” says Weinberger, who is from a suburb outside of Pittsburgh.
Weinberger has caught the study abroad bug. After returning from Ireland, he submitted his application for the Plus3 program in Costa Rica. The two-week program will be held in May 2019, and is for rising sophomores. He also plans to complete the Global Business Institute in London and to spend a future summer in Prague, Budapest, and Krakow through Pitt’s Comparative Economics of Central Europe program.
Weinberger is not alone. McCurdy is planning to complete the Plus3 program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The program’s healthcare focus is appealing. She plans to major in finance and supply chain management, with an emphasis on healthcare.
“One of the great things about early exposure to study abroad is that the data shows that students who study abroad early are likely to study abroad again during their college experience,” says Bryan Schultz, director of international programs at Pitt Business. “The international immersion they gain is a vital part of developing their global competence as future business leaders.”
At Pitt Business, about 55 percent of students study abroad at least once. The participation rate is the highest level at the University of Pittsburgh — which Schultz attributes to the school’s wide portfolio of business-specific international programs.
For McCurdy, Weinberger, and their peers, the Woodcock Global Honors Fellowship concluded one week before the university’s orientation and two weeks before the first day of class. That left enough time to return home and get ready for the fall semester.
“The experience was great. It re-affirmed my interest in finance and made me interested in international business,” McCurdy says.
A good head start in college will do that.