Okahoma State University Oklahoma State University

A Message From Mike Dicks

I have been asked frequently about how to put together the service abroad courses. Most people immediately understand that you cannot just show up somewhere and drill a well, restore an old building or construct some type of new facility.

We begin with a request from a non government organization (NGOs) that is working in a local community. NGOs contact us through a referral from other NGOs that we have worked with in the past, former students (domestic and international), federal and state legislators, professional colleagues, and people at our project sites.

A site visit is the first step of the process to identify the needs and priorities of the community and the available human, financial, land and other resources that are available. We meet with local, regional, and national government officials to insure any projects conform to legal requirements and country priorities. We contact relevant businesses, other NGOs working in the areas, and universities to insure that similar projects are not already in planning and any project may provide opportunities to these local entities.

Our work is based on the simple premise that any project we undertake must be profitable. This is important to insure that the project is sustainable. We design the project to fit into the local community, using local resources and labor where possible, but the end result must be a business activity that is profitable.

Our largest current project is in Sierra Leone. The first service abroad to Sierra Leone, five years ago, was the site assessment with the NGO, 4HIM out of Oklahoma City, to look into how to help an orphanage with food production and income generation. We have taken seven trips to Sierra Leone since that original site assessment trip. Preparation for the trip over the last winter break required organizing with numerous groups and organizations to complete five specific projects; 1) a water drilling project with Williamette Medical Teams and 4HIM Sierra Leone; 2) a bio-filter project with the Oklahoma Soil and Water Conservation Society, Njala University, Wellington Orphanage, Engineers without Borders and the OSU engineering college; 3) restoration of a facility to complete our experiment station with Njala university, One-Seventeen, 4HIM Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Health; 4) phase two of a nutrition study with Wellington Orphanage, Wellington Community, Kameo and One-Seventeen; and 5) an economic feasibility study on a large farm in the nearby community of Waterloo.

Transportation logistics and well drilling equipment and expertise were provided by the Williamette Medical Team, Jesi Lay (OSU/Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) was responsible for project planning, with OSU, Njala University, Benedictine College and Wellington orphanage providing labor for the actual well drilling. Bio-filter community locations, lodging, transportation and meals for the bio-filters team were organized by Dr. Bashiru Koroma and Njala University, while Liberty Galvin (OSU/ Environmental Sciences) was responsible for planning, OSU Engineers Without Borders was responsible for the design of bio-filters and labor for the construction was provided by Njala and OSU students with oversight provided by Dr. DeeAnn Sanders of the OSU/College of Engineering. Facility restoration was led by Wayne Kriner (OSU/Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering) with supplies provided by One-Seventeen and OSU, and labor provided by OSU and Wellington orphanage. The Nutrition study was led by Morgan Kinsey (OSU/Human Sciences) with labor provided by Wellington Orphanage and One-Seventeen. The large farm feasibility study was led by Richard Moore (OSU/Department of Agricultural Economics). Finally, Lt. Col. Jackie Sanders (OSU/International Agriculture and member of the Oklahoma National Guard) assisted with acquisitions of supplies and food, logistics and security while Stephanie Surhe of One-Seventeen provided all the accounting and financial transaction services.

Over 100 people were directly involved with the projects carried out during this service abroad with a total estimated cost of just over $74,000 with most of the funds raised by OSU students, scholarships including $6,500 from OSU/College of Engineering, and additional financial support from Benedictine College, One-Seventeen, Williamette Medical Teams, OSU/Department of Agricultural Economics, and Oklahoma Soil and Water Conservation Society. Planning for this project began in August and took four months.

This year we will have four students working, going to school, and starting businesses in Sierra Leone. A group of engineering students has started a pre-university math and science education program and Jesse Cruce (OSU/College of Engineering) began teaching at Wellington high school in February. Jesi Lay (OSU/Biosystems Engineering) will be conducting research with Njala University on rain water collection systems beginning this fall. Morgan Kinsey (Nutrition) and Shannon Watson (Agricultural Economics) are working on a project to develop a low cost diet that can be produced by the Wellington Orphange and one of the students will spend time in Sierra Leone later this year to help implement the farm production plan. A pineapple farming enterprise will be started in August by Richard Moore (Agricultural Economics).

The Sierra Leone development project is one of eight that have been started by the Center for International Trade and Development in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Each of these project locations provides opportunities for US and foreign students to work together to create innovative solutions to food, water, energy and waste management problems. Trips to Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo and Moldova (Eastern Europe) are planned for this summer. A joint project with UPAEP (Puebla, Mexico) in Guatemala provides for five weeks of Spanish language immersion while planning and design of a water system for a small mountain village in Guatemala.

Students, faculty and alumni that would like the experience of working and living within a foreign culture in Eastern Europe, Latin America or Africa are encouraged to contact our office.

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Accepting Cultural Differences

Lupita Fabregas

I grew up in a society where we never had the opportunity to interact with people from other cultures. In my society, we have “social classes”, and people like me do not interact with people from another class, a common practice in many countries. Spanish descendents do not interact with indigenous people; wealthy people do not interact with poor people; and people from the cities do not interact those from the rural communities. We are just from different worlds, and those worlds do not mix.

We do not receive a lot of international students in our colleges or universities; we do not have clubs or churches where people from different cultures get together. My society is a monoculture society, we all look alike. My life was always very “culturally” comfortable. I never had to make an effort to know someone from a different culture or to understand a different language.

Even though I never thought about meeting different people or learning about other cultures, I always dreamed of traveling abroad and visiting exotic places. It never crossed my mind that traveling would require learning from different people. I came to the United States and saw so many people from different cultures for the first time in my life. They even lived close to my house!

I enjoyed watching people from different cultures. I loved to see the way that they dressed, talked and interacted with each other. At that moment, I realized that living in a multicultural environment has made me a perfect example of a global or international person.

I remember the first time I traveled back to Mexico after eight months in the States. I was talking with my friends about how traveling abroad, attending a cultural night, and having dinner in Thai, India or Chinese restaurants helped expose my family to a diverse society. I was just so proud of myself and my multicultural perspective. However, I was naïve and pretentious. I was just watching people from outside. I never tried to talk or interact with people from other cultures, not in the parking lot, not in my office. I felt that I had enough cultural exposure by looking at them.

Living and interacting with people from different cultures is unnatural. We all feel more conformable when we interact with people that are like us! Learning to live in a diverse society is a process. It is a process that involves active learning, and tons of good will. There is no magical involvement! And it is much harder than we all think.

Milton Bennett developed a model that can explain how to deal with people from other cultures. In my next articles I will explain his model and how the model can affect your ability to interact with different people. Bennett divided the entire process to develop intercultural sensitivity in two big stages, ethnocentric and ethnorelative.

Let me explain, when you are in one of the three ethnocentric stages of the continuum (denial, defense, or minimization), your own culture is the center of your reality. I was a good example of this intercultural stage. My culture was the only one that is the best and the true, and of course I was always culturally right. Doing things in my way was perfect and my crusade in life was to make people from other cultures understand and learn the right way to do everything. Among my cultural arguments, two good examples are: Students must live with their parents until they get married and should never leave the city where they were born.

In the last three stages of the continuum – ethnorelative (acceptance, adaptation, and integration), you see your culture in a context of other cultures. Your culture is just one among the incredible multicultural world. When you are ethnorelative, you can see and identify cultural differences. You can describe your own culture and understand that we are all different; there is no right or wrong, we are just different.

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International Trade and Development Has a New Home

Kate Arroyo

Located in Stillwater, Okla. at the Wes Watkins Center on Oklahoma State University campus, the Center for International Trade and Development (CITD) began operations in January 2010. The CITD focuses on international trade and international development as a dual means to increase Oklahoma’s global presence. Dr. Mike Dicks, the Watkins Endowed Chair of International Trade and Development, directs the CITD while Anthony Cambas and Justin Hazzard serve as International Trade Specialists.

The international trade specialists collaborate with Oklahoma-based businesses to provide detailed, one-on-one consultation geared toward foreign market development. Oklahoma companies interested in marketing their products and services overseas will benefit from their expertise in customs regulations, export compliance, global logistics, and international business development. The CITD also offers a line of international trade courses geared toward business professionals who want to support commercial growth in the global market. In particular, the online Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) course prepares students to take the CGBP certification exam, which is an internationally recognized credential confirming international trade competence.

In the area of international development, CITD focuses on assisting communities in meeting basic food, water, sanitation, education, and health needs. We currently have projects in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Development and service abroad projects are chosen to provide assistance to non-governmental organizations as well as an experiential learning opportunity for OSU students. The latest group of OSU students and professors traveled to Sierra Leone over winter break to support water purification efforts, water well drilling, and agricultural education initiatives led by Njala University and local communities.

We welcome you to visit the Center for International Trade and Development at 103 Wes Watkins Center, contact us by email at citd1@okstate.edu or telephone at 405-744-4272. We are available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 p.m.). View our website at citd.okstate.edu and like us on facebook and follow us on twitter.

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How Businesses Get Their International Strategy Wrong

Justin Hazzard

Companies that successfully engage in foreign markets have one thing in common: they fully integrate their international business strategy throughout the organization, and conversely, their international sales are addressed independently from their domestic business.

In the process of sending products abroad, some companies fail to address critical issues that directly impact their potential for foreign market success. In my experience with designing and rehabilitating export programs, I see a common series of missteps, some of them I’ve made myself.

  • Lack of executive commitment to exporting

    Without buy-in from the entire executive team, you may be sabotaging your export program. To effectively enter international markets you will be drawing resources from every corner of the company: distribution, finance, accounting, production, human resources, etc. A firm may have conceptualized its export program but failed to integrate it into the company’s overarching strategy. Perhaps there is an anticipated acquisition that could tie up much-needed capital or the research and development team has designed a new prototype, but it does not meet the technical standards of your most promising foreign market.
  • Half-baked strategy

    Many companies fulfill international orders passively, fielding inquiries from all over the globe, yet fail to intentionally grow in a foreign geographic region. Creating an export strategy is a highly valuable exercise because it addresses issues that may be critical to ongoing success overseas. It takes discipline to focus your development efforts within your target countries, but it is the quickest pathway to building a strong export program.
  • Immediate gratification

    Channel development in international markets typically require a longer period of ‘courting’ and thus a firm should expect a prolonged period of “partner seeking.” There may be pressure to drastically modify or discontinue the export strategy prematurely if milestones are not clearly communicated throughout the management ranks. Long term relationships tempered over time will be crucial to international development.
  • Failure to adapt

    There are many adaptations that a company must undergo to compete in overseas marketplaces: products, packaging, warranties, and even selling style. Do not make the assumption that your best selling product lines will be mirrored in your target export countries. The component of adaptation can be the most difficult to execute because it sometimes requires first-hand experience in that country’s culture to sincerely grasp the value-add of your products. McDonald’s entrance into France is a textbook case of cultural adaptation.
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