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Going Global

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Cross-cultural training offers internationally minded
students the skills they need for study, work, and life abroad.

GPT group

As people and organizations around the world interact more and more in fast-paced and high-impact exchanges and collaborations, UT’s International Office aims to prepare students to thrive in that environment. How? By equipping them to treat cultural differences not as stumbling blocks but rather as a foundation for growth and innovation.

Established in 2010, Global Professional Trainings, or GPT, is a program designed to develop students’ cross-cultural communication and prepare them for success abroad. Expert panels, group discussions, and keynote addresses are aimed at giving participants professional development opportunities, cultural immersion, and an immediate network of internationally minded peers.

The initiative dovetails with President Greg Fenves’ goal of enhancing the university’s international outreach.

“While our brand is recognized across the continents,” Fenves says, “we must be intentional in threading global engagement through our mission and vision to assure our students’ confidence and awareness in a multicultural world.”

Laurie Young, MA ’11, director of special projects in the International Office, says GPT “gives participants the appropriate tools to become global and cultural thinkers.”

To help students develop their cultural competence in a range of settings, training is tailored to different regions of the world. Through 2013, the program focused on the Middle East. Since then, the focus has shifted to East and Southeast Asia. While that continues, in 2017 the International Office is adding GPT for Mexico as part of UT’s efforts to strengthen relations with peer institutions there.

Students who participate in Global Professional Trainings Global Professional Trainings enjoy follow-up monthly networking and cultural group activities.

Students in Global Professional Trainings participate in follow-up monthly networking and cultural group activities.

In the past year, Fenves, representatives of the University Development Office, and other UT officials have made visits to Asia, Europe, and Mexico to foster global collaborations and opportunities for students and faculty while also expanding relations with international alumni. Additional development efforts are in the works for Canada, India, and the Middle East.

“Most businesses today are multinational, whether it is their customer base, their supply chain, their competitive challengers, or all three,” says Bill Bollinger, BBA ’78, MBA ’80. “To sustain and enhance these global connections, it is vital to understand and be sensitive to cultural differences.”

Bollinger and his wife, Judy, who live in London, have made GPT a focus of their UT philanthropy and have provided valuable advice to help the program grow. “The opportunities within East and Southeast Asia in particular are immense,” Bollinger says, “but could be at risk without the development of deeper cultural bonds.”

In addition to helping students broaden their networks and perspectives, GPT educates them about volunteer and internship opportunities and helps them plan for eventual careers abroad. Sophomore studio art major Emma Genet says the program showed her that “a global mindset is invaluable.”

More than 100 UT students interested in East and Southeast Asia and international students from those regions attended the Global Professional Trainings in 2015 and 2016, as well as follow-up monthly networking and cultural group activities.

GPT attendees

Meeting people from Asia as well as others who are interested in the region is among the most valuable aspects of GPT to students.

Umair Khakoo, BS ’16, participated in GPT as a representative of Pakistan. The chemistry major started a conversational Mandarin group with other conference attendees.

“GPT brings together very enthusiastic people who are willing to galvanize something and share their passions,” Khakoo says.

Prominent members of the faculty are integral to GPT’s success. Jeremi Suri, the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs in the History Department, and fellow history professor Huaiyin Li, director of the Center for East Asian Studies, help participants understand why Asian countries constitute one of the most dynamic regions in the global economy.

Li says participants have embraced GPT because “it brings students from the two sides together and bridges the cultural gap.”

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Meeting people from Asia as well as others who are interested in the region is among the most valuable aspects of GPT to students. Sophomore communication studies major Miguel Robles says, “The conference taught me how to work efficiently with those of a different culture.”

Christopher Coutinho, freshman physics major, says it gave him an appreciation for the many subtle differences among diverse societies. “Going forward,” he says, “I plan to keep a more open mind.”

Learn more about GPT and other International Office programs at world.utexas.edu.

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