Today@Sam Article

ACE Course Partners Across Borders

Feb. 12, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd

Carla Jones, Ph.D., believes that the job of educators is to expand students’ horizons and prepare them for their future careers. Ever since she started working as a professor in Sam Houston State University’s College of Business Administration, she has advocated for students to learn how to conduct business on a global scale.

“I love the course because it exposes Sam students to international business and how businesses work,” Jones said. “It expands their global mindset but also helps them to understand how culture influences business.”

In 2023, the stars aligned. Jones attended a conference in Cairo, Egypt and became fast friends with a woman from Zambia. The two exchanged their ideas and philosophies, leading to a proposed partnership between SHSU and Copperbelt University to have students from both universities work together to assist Zambia Freedom House. Students would work together to create proposals to help the recently established non-profit in its efforts to house, feed, support and uplift displaced children in Zambia.  

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Jones’ next step was to establish her class as an Academic Community Engagement (ACE) course through the Center for Community Engagement (CCE). By doing so, she joined numerous other SHSU professors that center their curriculum around community engagement and provide students a chance to complete coursework that enhances their learning and the public good.

“Knowing that I could connect my students with other students outside of the country and also incorporate service, which is part of our mantra at Sam, I thought it worked perfectly,” Jones said.

She then collaborated with her Copperbelt University counterpart, Professor Nilanjana Kumari. Jones said that establishing the line of communication early and maintaining their working relationship served as an example for their students and allowed them to quickly tackle any issues that came their way.

The students then worked on two projects, the first focused on getting the students acquainted with their Zambian peers and the country’s cultural, social and business dynamics. The second portion of the project involved working with the Zambian students to craft proposals for the Zambian Freedom House by observing their current connections, resources and needs, then finding where things can be improved or where they may benefit from partnering with another nonprofit. 

“I was so impressed with my students because they came up with ideas like connecting Zambia Freedom House with world food banks to make sure they had a good, strong food supply,” Jones said. “They also made sure that they had a social media presence and making sure that the leaders of the organization were connected with other countries that were doing similar things.”

One of the main hurdles that Jones’ students faced was the time difference. Zambia is about eight hours ahead of Texas. When the Sam students would be awake and working on the project, their Zambian counterparts were likely sleeping. Jones said that while some found a way to have someone on the four-person working on the project around the clock, others struggled with communication and coordination.

“Some were frustrated because you have to be flexible,” Jones said. “I just listed all the positives, like when you go to bed, there’s probably somebody working on your project. When you wake up, there’s new material done that you get to read and review.”

In the end, the students were able to offer up some of their proposals to the non-profit and received favorable feedback from the director and other members of the leadership team. Jones acknowledged that despite the bumps along the way, her first go at an ACE course was a resounding success.

One of her former students, Kane Emert, agrees and found that his horizons were broadened because of her course.

“It was eye opening to begin with, it really puts things into perspective, and we need to be conscious of what’s going on around us,” Emert said. “It really offered an opportunity to get a better understanding of other countries and the people and their backgrounds and ways that we might be able to work together.”

Jones is currently guiding her students through another international ACE course, this time based in South Africa. By providing students with the chance to interact with and learn about how to work with people around the globe, Jones is preparing her students for their future careers in business.

“Working with international groups catapults their learning out of the classroom and into the real world and gets them ready for dealing with different cultures,” Jones said. “It takes them one step closer to what they’re going to experience in the real world. It gets them ready, so they don’t walk in blind and they know that there are many elements to doing business, it’s not just numbers. To get them culturally ready and culturally sensitive is a great boost for their development.”  

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