The Pacific Northwest’s economy is heavily dependent on trade and international commerce. (Photo courtesy of the Northwest Seaport Alliance)

New Requirements Help Carson Cougs Develop a Global Mindset

By Becky Kramer

Sung Ahn
Helping students cultivate a global perspective is part of the Carson College of Business’s mission. By the time they graduate, students should understand how international markets, global supply chains, and events in distant countries affect U.S. businesses and their operations.

Sung Ahn sees a direct tie between that mission and Washington State University’s role as a land-grant institution.

“WSU’s land-grant mission is about making higher education accessible for everyone,” says Ahn, associate dean for the college’s international programs. “Providing a twenty-first-century education requires preparing our students to work in a rapidly expanding world. By understanding different cultures and having foreign language capabilities, they’ll be more effective leaders in today’s global environment.”

The Pacific Northwest’s economy also benefits from globally savvy business graduates, Ahn says.

Washington ranks among the nation’s most trade-dependent states. Apples, airplanes, software, wine, wheat, and lentils are just a few of the Washington goods and services exported to world markets. The Pacific Northwest is also known as the headquarters for multinational corporations and for its global innovation, Ahn says.

“There is nothing in business that’s not global or international,” says Jessica Cassleman, assistant dean for international programs and director of the International Business Institute. “Even if you spend your entire career in the United States, you could be working with people from 20 different countries.”

Developing an international perspective

Jessica Cassleman

Over the past several years, the Carson College has worked to increase students’ global awareness through new curriculum requirements.

Students in all business majors must complete an international experience requirement for their degree. To qualify, they can study abroad, major or minor in a foreign language, or take international business classes. Students also can get credit for experiences such as overseas military deployments or working in other countries as Peace Corps volunteers or missionaries.

“We want our students to be aware of how economic, political, and cultural factors in countries outside of the United States affect business and the global economy,” Cassleman says.

The Carson College has also strengthened requirements for international business majors. Those students must now declare a concentration in another field of study, such as accounting, marketing, or finance. They must achieve an intermediate level of proficiency in a foreign language and study abroad for at least one semester.

Studying abroad is a powerful experience for most students, helping them develop confidence and respect for others, Cassleman says.

“An international business degree is not necessarily about the first job, but about moving up faster and higher than other students,” she says. “Studying abroad and getting exposure to different cultures helps students develop the soft skills that employers value. Those students are often targeted for management positions early on.”

Making global opportunities possible

Since it went into effect in the fall of 2016, the college’s international experience requirement has encouraged more students to consider studying overseas.

But Ahn wants to see the number of business students who take advantage of study abroad opportunities to continue to grow, eventually doubling to 400 to 500 per year. He’d also like to provide incentives through generous scholarships for more students to choose Asia for their study abroad experience.

“If we can provide students the chance to experience emerging markets in China, India, or Indonesia, those three countries will cover about 40 percent of the world population,” Ahn says. “China is the largest trading partner for Washington companies. Think about what a conversation piece that could be during a job interview.”

Since the cost of studying abroad can be a deterrent, the Carson College is working to provide shorter, less costly study abroad experiences. The college had planned to offer a study abroad program in Lyon, France, and the surrounding wine regions over spring break, but the trip was canceled because of COVID-19. College officials hope to offer the week-long study abroad—which featured beverage management curriculum—in the future, when it’s safe to travel again, Ahn says.

Growing the number of students who study abroad will continue to require support for scholarships, Ahn says. Studying in another country costs more, and students can’t work while they’re overseas.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes the generous support of our stakeholders to provide a global education to our students,” Ahn says. “We want study abroad experiences to be available to all of our students, as we prepare them to be globally competent business professionals.”

For more information about supporting Carson College international business programs,
contact Jeff Pilcher, director of development, at or 509-335-8906.