In Their Own Words...
Bachelor of Arts ‘85
Marketing, Political Science
Managing Member & Founder, Elektrosign
As a student, how did you decide to study abroad?
Studying abroad in high school made me look hard at
universities that offered study abroad opportunities. While at CMU, my
professors encouraged me to study abroad. In 1982 I was accepted to study
for one year at the University of Augsburg in Germany. Being a part of
the Federation of German American Clubs, which provided a study abroad
scholarship, gave me close contact with mentors. I still keep in contact with
my mentor, the former President of the Augsburg Club.
Upon my return to CMU, I learned about the Rotary
Ambassadorial Fellowship and was sponsored by The Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club for
my studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Once again, I had classes
and made friends with students from all over the world. Our common
language was German.
What did you learn that you have
applied in your life and career?
My study abroad had a profound impact on my
educational and career choices, including my decision to earn a Master's degree
in Political Science. While working as a Legislative Assistant in the Michigan
House of Representatives, I was Michigan’s first participant in the State
Employee Exchange with the Leadership Academy of the State
of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. I subsequently arranged three education
tours to Germany for legislators, educators and business people to study the
German education system. In 1996 I started and directed the US office of
the Cross-Cultural Leadership Forum, a non-profit foundation based out of
Heidelberg, Germany. In 1999, I was appointed me the Representative for
Economic Development for the US and Canada for the State of Brandenburg.
In 2005, I launched my digital hospitality services company, Elektrosign. Since
our business is national and international, I continue to use the skills
developed during study abroad. Our Czech distributor speaks German, so that is
how we communicate today.
What advice would you give to
current CMU students considering or participating in study abroad?
Studying abroad is one of the most eye opening and
enriching personal experiences. My advice to prospective students is:
• Go in
with enthusiasm, an open mind, and a willingness to learn a new culture.
friendly and make friends
curious and ready to learn.
• Do your
homework before you get to your new country: know the basics about the
political structure, leading personalities, geography, history and culture.
• Learn at
least one foreign language. One really only understands a culture when one
understands the language.
• Reach out
to others and be an ambassador to bridge cultures.
Imagine how we could minimize cultural
misunderstandings in our world, if our executives and employees understood the
background, history and nuances of people all over the world! You will
certainly set yourself apart from others and make yourself a valued member of
your company and our society, in addition to being a better person.