by Colton Campbell
University of West Georgia students in the Richards College of Business had the best – or, in this case, the wurst – time in Germany over the summer.
Eight students working toward their Master of Business Administration degrees traveled to Münster, Germany, earlier this year for a credit-earning practicum experience in which they tackled a real-world challenge facing Arvato, a global services company.
Dr. Jeannie Pridmore, associate professor of management information systems and director of UWG’s MBA program, led the group and said the collaboration with students from the University of Münster (UM) made the trip a fulfilling experience for all involved.
“As the director of the MBA program, I’m always looking for ways to include experiential learning opportunities in the curriculum, so students know the challenges and tasks they’ll be facing when they enter the business world,” Pridmore said. “Being able to work with German students to propose a solution to a real company was influential for our students – so much so, we have a couple of students who are considering attending the University of Münster to earn their doctorate degrees.”
Representatives from Arvato charged UWG and UM students with solving a communication challenge between the global customer support and logistics area of the company and its marketing and information technology counterparts.
“The two departments were not communicating strategically to align and support their customers’ needs, with the IT professionals being technical and to-the-point in their communications, and the marketing representatives being more consumer-facing and abstract,” said Danielle Dillinger, a student who traveled to Germany as part of the practicum course and later graduated from UWG with her MBA in July.
Dillinger said she and her fellow students developed a prototype for an online interface that provides multiple ways for IT and marketing professionals to communicate and provide each department with what they need.
“It wasn’t an easy task, but having this opportunity not only helped me in my graduate studies, but also in the job I have now,” said Dillinger, who was hired by Atlanta-based plumbing supplier Supply.com as a junior developer. “My undergraduate degree is in management information systems, so I have that more technical background. Working with Arvato showed me how to strategically work with other groups within an organization to support our customers’ needs. That added value to my degree.”
Students presented the prototype interface to executives at Arvato, with high-ranking officials stating they’d be more than willing to hire UWG graduates for operations based in the U.S., Pridmore said.
The trip wasn’t all about work, though. Students also became immersed in the German culture, with UM students serving as ambassadors for the European nation.
“I could not imagine a more hospitable group of people than the students, professors and Arvato professionals we met while in Germany,” Pridmore said. “We took several walking tours and toured castles that were built in the 12th century. It was truly amazing to get a taste of all that history and for our students to experience what it’s like for the students there.”
This was the first year the practicum course in Germany was offered, but Pridmore has plans to make the 10-day trip an annual experience for a handful of students.
“We’re working on a collaboration with Georgia College and State University to expand the program to include students from their MBA program, as well,” Pridmore said. “Our hope is to have 10 students each who fly to Germany next May. After that, we’d love to expand to more University System of Georgia institutions interested in partnering with us.”
Since she’s already graduated, Dillinger won’t be able to go with the May 2019 group. But she may be back in Germany soon, either way.
“I’m considering pursuing my Ph.D. in Germany,” Dillinger said. “I’d never been out of the country except for short cruises before this past summer. The people I met were incredible – so generous with their time and other resources. I would love the opportunity to study there. If that doesn’t work out, I know I’ll be back soon for at least a visit.”