I am about to start my junior year at Mays, and I could not be more excited about it. In just a few short weeks, I will get to meet the new freshmen in my small group as an FBI peer leader, and I will teach my first course in Mays. I am not sure what to expect of this year, but I am certain it will be a year to remember.
For those of you who are not familiar, FBI stands for the Freshman Business Initiative. It is a great program for incoming freshmen that allows them to have at least one class in Mays during their first semester and to meet some of their peers. The class is set up so that the freshmen go to large lecture once a week with Professor Shontarius Aikens and then go to small group once a week. Each small group is made up of about 15 freshmen and has two upper class peer leaders who serve as mentors, teachers and event planners.
This is my second year as a peer leader, and my small group last year had some great times together. To help the freshmen bond and get to know their peers in Mays, we had events like glow-in-the-dark capture the flag, trips to Spoons Frozen Yogurt, an Italian dinner, a Halloween party, and a Christmas party complete with cookies and hot chocolate! I was surprised by how close our small group got by the end of the year and how much our freshmen looked up to us. I was so proud when one of my freshmen texted me in January and told me he had gotten into the Business Honors program that I had encouraged all of them to apply for. I still call my peer leaders from freshmen year for advice, and I hope that my freshmen feel that they can do the same. Last semester, there was talk that FBI was going to be cut due to a smaller budget for Mays, and I could not be happier that the program was saved. Programs like FBI help to set Mays apart from other competitive business schools and instead foster a friendly environment of collaboration that Texas A&M can be proud of.
Last spring, I took a course on the environment of international business with the executive director of the Center for International Business Studies, Dr. Kerry Cooper. It was one of the best classes I have ever taken at Mays and left a lasting impression on me. It was the first class I had been in that spent hours discussing current events and how international occurrences affect us here at home. When my friend Kyle Klansek and I found out that the class would no longer be offered at Mays due to Dr. Cooper’s retirement, we decided that we had to do something about it.
Kyle and I decided to create our own one-hour seminar to fill the void that the elimination of Dr. Cooper’s class would leave. Our seminar, The International Importance of Emerging Markets, essentially concentrates on the BRIC countries and how they will affect business in our lifetime. The BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China make up the emerging markets that are in the process of rapid growth and industrialization. We will stress how to do business with these different cultures and what each country’s advancement means for Americans in business.
For example, while it can be argued that China has already emerged as the Chinese now hold the largest portion of the United State’s debt, there is no contesting that anyone who wants to be successful in business today needs to understand how the Chinese are artificially depressing the value of their renminbi, the official currency of the People’s Republic of China, in order to remain competitive in today’s manufacturing sectors. Likewise, while India has made huge strides in becoming a world player in the computer programming market, India needs to put an end to government corruption to be able to have the funds for the proper infrastructure that the country needs for quick transportation. I was actually fortunate enough to go on the study abroad trip with Dr. Julian Gaspar to Bangalore and Mysore, India, to experience firsthand what I was learning about in the classroom.
To make learning about emerging markets fun, Kyle and I want to set up a game type atmosphere in which the students are placed in four teams representing Brazil, Russia, India, and China. We will bring a real international event that has recently occurred to class, discuss it, and then give the teams time to decide how their country would respond. The country with the best response will earn points and the team with the most points at the end of the semester will get extra points added to their grade. We feel that this will be an interesting way to learn about the emerging markets and discuss international events at the same time.
Kyle and I hope to also utilize guest speakers and videos in the classroom to keep things exciting. I am nervous about teaching students my own age, and I keep thinking of small details that I had never thought of before. Should Kyle and I wear business casual when we teach the class to set ourselves apart from the students? How should we advertise our class to make it seem worthwhile? How much homework do we assign? I hope our class is a success, and I hope this is the best semester yet – but only time will tell!