In June, the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Business in Norway study abroad program, which takes place each summer at the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) campus in Hønefoss.
The program grew out of relationships that Texas Tech University professors began forming in the early 1990s during teaching opportunities in Norway. It is the longest-running study abroad program of Rawls College and among the few summer abroad programs in general with faculty and student participants from both the home and visiting institutions.
"It's a mix of both Texas Tech students and international students, so they really do understand and get to see other points of view," said Assistant Professor of Practice Jeffrey Harper, who co-founded the program in 1999 and has led it most summers since then.
Over the past 20 years, about 400 Rawls College students have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the program at USN, a Norwegian state university with campuses in Hønefoss and eight other locations, he said.
This year, 22 Texas Tech students attended classes with 30 USN students. Further diversifying the group, several of the USN students were exchange students from other countries, including Portugal, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Iceland, Greece and Sudan, Harper said.
"It's a very international classroom," he said.
Dean Margaret Williams joined the program in Hønefoss in late May and early June for the anniversary festivities and to renew Rawls College's commitment to its relationship with USN.
"Partnerships such as these are based on relationships, which is why I thought it was important to visit USN Hønefoss first-hand and meet many of the Norwegians who have been nurturing this partnership over the years," Williams said. "A special bonus was the opportunity to join the Rawls students for their first few days in Norway and to experience the beauty of the country and its culture through the eyes of our students."
In addition to the annual summer abroad program there, faculty members from both universities have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to serve as visiting professors at each other's schools and have collaborated on research projects through the years. Along the way, many lasting relationships have formed, including a couple of international marriages.
Building on the foundation of this successful study abroad program, the two colleges further cemented their partnership last month by developing a more formal joint relationship concerning the Rawls STEM MBA degree.
From Bergen to Beer to Buskerud
Rawls College Professor Dale Duhan first taught in Norway in 1993 on the invitation of a friend from his graduate school days who had become a member of the faculty at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration (NHH) in Bergen. Duhan, his wife and their four children lived in Norway that year.
"It was there in Bergen that I met Kåre Sandvik, who was at that time a doctoral student at NHH, and a member of the faculty at Buskerud University College, a business school that became part of USN. He invited me to come to Hønefoss and to teach a seminar for some of their master's students," said Duhan, noting that his class became an annual graduate seminar that he has returned annually to USN to teach for the last 25 years.
In the late 1990s, Duhan was asked by an associate dean to begin forming international programs for the business college at Texas Tech. Rawls Assistant Professor of Practice Jeffrey Harper, then an MBA graduate student with significant study abroad experience of his own, was hired in 1997 as a staff member to coordinate the college's effort.
According to Sandvik, who is today a marketing professor in the School of Business at USN, the effort picked up steam during a conversation over beer the following summer. At that time, he was a doctoral student teaching a summer course in international marketing at Texas Tech at the invitation of Duhan. One Friday after work, he went with Harper, Duhan and then Associate Dean Jim Wilcox to the former Hub City Brewery in downtown Lubbock, where the concept of a summer study abroad program in Norway began to form.
"Discussion around the table started with my asking how we could further develop the relationship between our two business schools," Sandvik recalled.
Wilcox, Duhan, and Harper answered the question by coming up with the concept of a joint summer school package, Sandvik said.
"It was one of those scenarios where we flipped over the paper placemat before us while we were talking and started drawing up ideas," Duhan said.
The concept appealed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
"We did not have summer school at business schools in Norway back then, and this was something I wanted to test to see if we could attract Norwegian students to study during part of summer, instead of going on vacation or taking summer jobs," Sandvik said, noting they also had plenty of dormitories available during the summer to accommodate international students.
From Harper's perspective, a major benefit to Texas Tech was the fact that Norway is a country where people speak English, but the program would be distinctive from the many study abroad programs based in the United Kingdom.
The already amicable relationship became the strongest factor of consideration, said Duhan, who was then the Director of International Business Programs at the college.
"Dr. Harper and I had several exchange programs that we were trying to develop, and this one was particularly attractive because of the commitment of the faculty both there and here to make it successful," Duhan said. "Both colleges were interested in growing their international programs, so the opportunity that our schools could offer to each other were strengthened by the fact that several faculty here at Texas Tech were familiar with the Norwegian programs in business administration, and vice-versa."
A Transatlantic Bridge
The conditions overall were favorable for this relationship to flourish, and the study abroad program commenced in May 1999 in Norway with 20 students from each school, Sandvik said.
"Making it happen took lots of hard work on the part of Dr. Harper and others in the International Programs Office here at Rawls, and of course on the part of folks at USN," Duhan said.
The program is led each year by faculty members from both USN and Rawls College and has student participants from both institutions. Each summer, students in the program take two courses: international marketing, taught by the Rawls professor leading the Rawls group that year; and international management, taught by a USN professor.
In addition to Harper and Duhan, other Rawls faculty members who have led the program in different years are: Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Dennis Arnett, Professor Bob McDonald, Professor Debbie Laverie and Associate Professor Shannon Rinaldo.
Because Rawls students study and live alongside peers of the host institution, the summer study abroad program in Norway is more immersive than many other study abroad programs, said Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Dennis Arnett, who is among the Rawls faculty members who have taken turns leading the program in past years.
To enhance their academic studies, students visit and do projects with Norwegian companies, such as Telenor, a global telephone company, Arnett said, "so it allows students to see that what's taught in the classroom applies in the real world."
In addition to the resume-enhancing benefits of having overseas experience, students acquire life skills and cultural understanding as they learn to navigate in a foreign country, Harper said.
"Although most everyone in Norway speaks English, when you go to the grocery store, you're going to be unfamiliar with brands and even how to pay for groceries because it's a little bit different," he said. "There are challenges every day, so our students have to learn how to be adaptable and flexible to overcome those challenges."
Rawls students stay in dorms with fellow USN students and join together for a number of social events, such as a scenic train ride to the city of Bergen on the West Coast and a two-night cruise ship trip to Copenhagen.
"All of these activities are done together with the Norwegian students, and they become close classmates and friends during these intensive five weeks," Sandvik said.
Most importantly, students learn to respect differences between countries and cultures, he said, noting that the work of enabling international students to become integrated in a host culture "is one of the most important education projects we do."
While the study abroad program is at the core of the relationship, the two institutions have become related to one another in many other ways.
"The key to success with our program is that it was designed to promote involvement between the two colleges at many levels," Duhan said, noting that both Rawls College and USN offer undergraduate, master's and doctoral programs.
Williams added: "The quality of the faculty, the new campus facilities, and the opportunity for students from around the world to share the dormitory make this an outstanding experience for our students and our faculty who teach there."
Several of the faculty members in Norway have come to Lubbock as visiting professors at Rawls College, and vice-versa. These working relationships have led to collaborations among faculty members of both colleges on research, publications and supervision of doctoral students. Some exchanges have been active for many years. For example, Arnett and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs and Research Mayukh Dass have taught weeklong courses at USN each spring and fall semester for the past eight years. Arnett and his family also lived in Norway for a year while he taught and researched at USN on a Fulbright scholarship.
Arnett, who has already made 50 trips there, said these experiences add a deeper dimension to what faculty members and students understand about life and business in Norway.
Of course, none of these experiences, collaborations and other opportunities would have been possible for students and faculty of both schools without the continued support of their top leaders, Sandvik and others said.
"The deans of both schools have been really supportive, starting with Dean Roy D. Howell at Rawls College and Rector Hans Anton Stubberud at USN," said Sandvik, a former provost of Buskerud University College, noting that subsequent deans have added new elements to the program to keep it dynamic. "Business school administrative directors and their staffs on both sides have been really supportive as well and have come up with flexible solutions to get the program to work."
Their support of this close relationship has given rise to long-term institutional commitments, such as the recent partnership concerning the Rawls STEM MBA degree. It will give Texas Tech students in the STEM MBA program the option to continue their studies in Hønefoss and officially earn a Master of Science in management information systems from USN, and give USN students the same option to finish their STEM MBA degree at Texas Tech, Dass said.
"This is a great opportunity for our students who are interested in pursuing a career in the information technology industry to learn about IT systems in Europe," Dass said. "It will definitely open up more job opportunities for our students. Moreover, we will attract the top students from Norway to come to Texas Tech and pursue their MBA."
The strength of the Rawls-USN partnership shines through in comments from students when they reflect on that special time in their lives when they ventured overseas and made new lifelong friends.
Livingston McKenzie Jr., who participated in the program in summer 2009, still keeps in touch with his Norwegian friends overseas, he said.
"The trip also exposed me culturally to a part of the world I had never experienced or known much of," said McKenzie, who graduated from Rawls College in 2012 with his Bachelor of Business Administration.
Madison Winn, who participated in the program this summer, concurred: "June was one of the best months of my life because of study abroad."
When Harper posted a picture from the trip this summer on his Facebook page, he was amazed to receive comments from students who participated in the Norway program in 2001 saying how much they miss the place, remarking over what has or hasn't changed, and recalling familiar spots.
"That's really rewarding," he said. "I think almost every single one of them makes the same comment of, 'That was the best experience that I ever had at Rawls College.' And that makes it all worthwhile."
Check out our Business in Norway Flickr album. Are you among the many Rawls students and faculty members who have crossed the Atlantic Ocean to participate in our Business in Norway study abroad program over the past 20 years? If so, email photos to us from your experience in Norway with your permission for us to use them so we may add them to our Norway Flickr album.