Program aims to connect Maryland's college students and international businesses

Connor Ganley, a rising senior at UMBC, will spend one morning a week this summer meeting with some of the most successful global companies in Maryland. The 21-year-old student sees the chance to learn about international business as key to his future in chemical engineering.

Ganley is among 25 students in the inaugural class of a program for Maryland college students being launched by the World Trade Center Institute, a nonprofit international business network at the Baltimore World Trade Center in the Inner Harbor. Over 11 weeks, organizers hope to connect students with the state’s international business community through site visits at companies that do business globally, such as McCormick & Co. and Ciena.

Students hope to learn about career opportunities in international business, while businesses are looking to groom and retain local talent. Other Maryland hosts include nonprofit Jhpiego, Johns Hopkins Medicine International, advertising agency Planit, BD Diagnostics, Rockwell Collins, Prometric and, in Washington, the World Bank.

Ganley, from Ellicott City, applied for Global Pathways for Students to gain the global perspective required for a UMBC engineering scholars program in which students work to solve problems. But he also expects such a perspective to be useful for his future career, possibly related to researching or developing thermal coatings for spacecraft.

“Science is not specific to one place,” said Ganley, also working this summer as an intern at W.R. Grace and Co. in Columbia. “There’s going to be lots of collaboration, lots of interdisciplinary effort… You’ll have to interact with many different cultures and many different places, and I want the perspective of successful people in international business.”

The program runs from May 31 to Aug. 16 and gathers at various businesses each Thursday morning. During visits, students will meet with company representatives including executives, human resource specialists and new hires. Some companies may offer tours or talk about their industries.

The institute, which helps Maryland companies internationally and runs professional development programs for executives, wanted to expand with a program for college students, said Natalia Andrade Rocha, the institute’s manager of the EDGE Program and client services.

The new program is designed to showcase opportunities for entry-level positions.

Students need GPAs of at least 3.0 and an interest in international business, though a major in that field is not required. Students in the first class, who come from 13 universities or colleges in Maryland or the region, have majors in political science, biology, engineering, business, philosophy and international relations.

“We were hearing a lot of people talking about talent and Maryland retaining talent,” Rocha said. “The main goal of the program is to show students that are interested in international business in some capacity, whether through private or public sector, the different options they have in Maryland. A lot of students don’t know where to start.”

About a year ago, the institute’s staff approached board member James Albrecht, a retired McCormick executive who has long mentored college students and veterans returning to college, for help developing the program. Albrecht, a food scientist who headed McCormick’s industrial business and its international business before retiring in 1998, also worked for The Coca-Cola Co. and Nestle.

Albrecht said he expanded on the approach he takes when he mentors students. He encourages them to look for opportunities at companies that are committed to growing outside the United States, especially in fast-growing areas such as China or India.

“We’re trying to point these students to look at companies that have made a commitment to globalizing their business… and to show unique selling point on their resumes that say they have interest in international” business, he said.

Students will visit Rockwell Collins’ information management services division, based in Annapolis, on July 26, to meet some of the company’s younger engineers and business people and tour the company’s business aviation command and control center.

The nearly 1,000-person division develops electronic and communication services for the airline industry and other sectors. The firm develops systems used at passenger check-in kiosks and baggage check-in stations at airports all over the world. Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Rockwell Collins typically recruits at college career fairs and hires engineers, business majors and software developers for entry-level jobs, both in the U.S. and globally. It has a global workforce of nearly 30,000.

“To be part of a program that’s bringing 25 really motivated juniors and seniors to come to us and learn more about us is a great investment of our time and energy,” said Robert Sapitowicz, director of strategy and marketing for the division and a WTC board member. “There is competition for smart people… We certainly would want to meet all the brightest and smartest international business-leaning students to potentially hire them downstream when they are ready to get into the workforce.”

Aeliana Lomax, a 20-year-old rising senior at Loyola University, said she sees the program as a way to add to her practical experience as an international business major, a field she chose to combine interests in entrepreneurship and learning about different cultures. Lomax, who is pursuing a minor in Spanish, studied abroad in Spain last semester. She hopes to start a career in foreign policy or international marketing.

“What stood out to me is how many on-site company visits we’ll be doing,” Lomax said of the summer program, as well as “the ability to get your foot in the door and speak with some of these companies and get an overview of their role in international business…

“Working for any of the companies that are participating would be a phenomenal opportunity,” she said.

Albrecht said he hopes the program will convince students they need not venture far to find careers in international business.

Global Pathways will offer “a nice cross-section and wonderful networking opportunities that most students don’t get,” he said. “You have wonderful companies right here… All of these companies have made commitments to grow the company internationally and to attract international business here.”

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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