Global Village prepares future leaders to do business across borders
Brightly colored costumes and fun were on the menu for the Global Village opening ceremony at Iacocca Hall.
The world arrived on Lehigh’s doorstep this week, with all the pageantry, color and excitement of an Olympic-caliber event. But the 108 people representing 54 countries did not come for fun and games—although over the next six weeks, they will find a healthy dose of both.
Each summer, Lehigh University opens its doors to visitors from around the world through its Global Village for Future Leaders of Business & Industry program, which prepares future business leaders to succeed in the international market through lectures, courses, trips, projects and discussions.
Run by the university’s Iacocca Institute, Global Village enters its 13th year by welcoming the largest and most geographically diverse group of interns yet.
Lee Iacocca ’45—the former president of Chrysler Corp. who was named by CNN in 2005 as one of the five most influential businesspersons of the past 25 years—established the program with the aim of uniting people and sharing distinct experiences from all around the world.
“He felt that there wasn’t a forum under one roof to discuss global problems,” Jim Harper, the Iacocca Institute’s public relations manager, says.
When this year’s interns gathered under one roof for the opening ceremony in Iacocca Hall on the Mountaintop Campus Monday night, each participant proudly donned traditional outfits from their home countries. From brightly colored and adorned sombreros to sparkling saris, the room was brimming with an international flavor. Flags bordered the room in a cascading line symbolizing the tangible sense of unity that was the theme of the night.
“In the last three years, it never ceases to amaze me when I come into a room like this tonight and I see an incredible vibrancy from all of you joined together,” Lance Simmons, special assistant to Governor Rendell, told the gathering.
Ranging in age from 19 to 37, the interns are students and working professionals, including engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and television personalities, to name just a few. Courses and seminars led by Lehigh faculty and guest facilitators from other universities as well as domestic and international industry, will provide guidance for work in a globalized society.
“Your presence here today adds another dimension to Lehigh,” Mohamed El-Aasser, vice president for international affairs, said during the opening ceremony.
Making the world a better place
Surrounded by flags from around the world, this year's Global Village interns gathered under one roof to begin their six-week experience together.
Richard Brandt, director of the Iacocca Institute, started with the Global Village program as a teacher of international business during its first year in 1997.
“Every year I am more impressed with the caliber and international experience of the interns, and their dedication to creating a world where we can do business together across borders and learn how to get along with each other,” Brandt says.
The application process for the interns is a somewhat complex procedure. Global Village has many overseas partners who pre-screen interns before their applications even reach the university, Harper says. This process ensures an exclusive, yet comprehensive, assembly of interns representing an assortment of countries.
This year, interns hail from as close as Erie, Pa., and as far away as Afghanistan. Four new nations joined this year’s Global Village roster: Yemen, Libya, Angola and Uruguay. The program now boasts nearly 1,000 students who have gone through the summer program since its inception.
Burcin “Butch” Aksoy of Istanbul, Turkey, who went through Global Village in 1999 and now serves as president of the Global Village Network, welcomed this year’s interns in a letter read by Brandt during the opening ceremony.
“We all strongly believe that one day, our beliefs, friendships and unity will make this world a better place,” Aksoy wrote.
Lehigh’s growing international footprint
A dance party capped this year's opening ceremony.
The collective experience of the interns, combined with the expertise of the Global Village staff, offers an immersive program not only in business and leadership but in cultural understanding.
Besides being put through their paces in an academic setting, the interns will engage in activities and events throughout their time at Lehigh. Cultural nights give interns the chance to introduce their colleagues to the food, traditions and cultures they bring from home. The interns will also spend time in the local community and enjoy an Independence Day celebration with a local host family.
“As part of the growing international footprint for Lehigh University, this opportunity to interface with many foreign cultures is a critical piece of globalizing the campus and allowing some faculty, Lehigh staff, and business and community leaders to experience the world in Bethlehem,” Brandt says.
And, because the interns get to experience firsthand the city of Bethlehem together, they develop strong friendships.
“You really can open your mind and build your confidence because the people are just accepting here,” Adam Grinfeld, a current guide and Global Village alumnus from Israel, says. “There’s almost no competition here. If you speak English not completely fluently, no one judges you.”
Global Village reaffirms that by bringing people from even the most faraway places under one roof, they can learn to work together and thrive in today’s increasingly interconnected world.
--Annamaria Anselmo and Tricia Long
Photos by Ryan Hulvat