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German students study U.S. business, culture at UT Pan American in February
By C.M. Powell
381-3639
Posted: 02/16/1998
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Twelve students from the business school at Fachhochschule Nordostniedersachsen, a university in Lüneburg, Germany, are at The University of Texas-Pan American through Feb. 24 studying U.S. and international business and culture in a three-week seminar under a standing exchange program UT Pan American has with the German university.

"The students learn about America, NAFTA, international trade, international business and about the culture. That's our main aim for our students coming here," said Prof. Heinz-Dieter Knöll, associate dean of the business school at the university, who visited the UT Pan American campus in January.

"The benefit to our students is that they get a more international approach in their education," he said. "I believe UT Pan American is a special location because our students are introduced to two cultures, not only the American/U.S. culture, but also they get an impression of the Hispanic culture, the Mexican culture.

"Your students coming to us will learn about the specific business environment we have in Europe. They will make a tour through Germany, visiting several companies of different sizes. There are a lot of differences between the American companies and the European, especially German, companies," Knöll said.

UT Pan American has been exchanging students and faculty with the Lüneburg university for the last five years. Two graduates of the German university completed UT Pan American's MBA program, and two more students are expected to enroll in the program.

"One of the two is now in the PhD program, and the other is working this year with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development," said Dr. Michael Minor, UT Pan American associate professor of business, who has been closely involved in the exchange programs.

Other departments at the German university also have taken advantage of the relationship with UT Pan American. Students from the university's school of social work have also visited UT Pan American, and students from Lüneburg's school of law are enrolled in classes here.

About 60 German business students have attended the three-week February seminar at UT Pan American during the last five years, and Minor said about 48 UT Pan American business students have attended a three-week program at the German university in May.

Knöll was visiting UT Pan American in January primarily to coordinate a new exchange for students in two computer-oriented degree programs at his university.

"We are planning at our university two new programs that have an international approach — a postgraduate program in computer information systems and an undergraduate program in global business information systems," he said, adding that the degrees require students to spend at least one semester abroad in an English-speaking country, and UT Pan American is one of the universities where they will go.

He said some details are still being checked, but if all goes well, several students in the master's program will be at UT Pan American in spring 1999 and the undergraduate students will be here in fall 1999.

Knöll said his university is stressing the international component, particularly the English-language environment, for the degrees for two reasons.

"First, these are computer information systems students who are making information systems for businesses. Because business is becoming more and more global, they have to have an idea about the world and different cultures, and the user interfaces of such systems have to be designed to be used by everyone in the world if the company is acting world-wide.

"Secondly, the English-speaking countries, especially the U.S., have the leadership in information technology, so the English language is the language of technology.

"The students can grasp better skills in the English language, and they can also see an environment where using the technology is done by nearly everyone," he said. "We still have too many managers who don't want to touch a computer, so if we provide this experience for the students, they get exposed to another attitude toward the technology — just use it."

Dr. Linda McCallister, dean of the College of Business Administration, and Dr. Les Rydl, chair of the Department of Computer Information Systems and Quantitative Methods, spent time in Lüneburg last February to help Knöll set up the new programs.

"The cooperation is developing very well, and I think we have also developed some personal connections between faculty members, and that is a very important basis for cooperation," Knöll said. "I have found many open doors here."