The Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, will host more than two dozen students for the inaugural DEIB Around the World, sponsored by the Pamplin College of Business Office for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). Photo by Bob Veltri for Virginia Tech.

Beginning May 15, the Steger Center for International Scholarship will host more than two dozen underrepresented and underserved undergraduate students for the inaugural DEIB Around the World, sponsored by the Pamplin College of Business Office for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). DEIB Around the World is an international experiential learning program in partnership with the Steger Center in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland. 

On this 10-day journey, students will gain knowledge about international markets, tourism, and exposure to the inner workings of gaining a job/internship abroad, while enhancing cross-cultural communication skills through engagement with local community members. This initiative will expand international access for underrepresented and underserved populations, while enhancing student cultural humility and practical skills broadly in a global business context, aligning with the third goal of Pamplin’s Implementation Plan for strategic initiative 5.6, Build a model inclusive community: to advance the academic mission in Pamplin through DEIB.

The itinerary will take students hiking to scenic Monte Generoso in southern Switzerland, where they will learn more about those who call the canton of Ticino home. Students will also learn about mountain living and tourism in the area. Additionally, students will learn about the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which aims to promote world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences, and culture. Students will learn how UNESCO heritage and tourism influence business commerce in the town of Bellinzona and will visit the Swiss Customs Museum on Lake Lugano to understand the history of Ticino and its borders. The museum explores the different functions of Swiss border control and reminds visitors of the smuggling that once characterized the mountain valleys of Ticino, primarily of tobacco, coffee, alcohol, and various foods.

A key component of the students’ itinerary is a visit with leaders from UNESCO’s Inclusion Policy Lab and faculty from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences to understand and contextualize the meaning of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in Swiss government and business practices, in addition to learning the pressing DEIB issues impacting the Swiss economy. 

DEIB logo

“As the European face of Outreach and International Affairs, we work hard to fulfill OIA’s mission to share the best of Virginia Tech by working alongside communities both here in Switzerland and throughout Europe,” says Sara Steinert Borella, executive director of the Steger Center. “For us here in Riva San Vitale, Ticino, the southernmost canton in Switzerland, that means helping students engage locally to make the most of their study abroad experience. Whether through project-based learning, directed research projects, or engagement with local schools or sports clubs, we work to help students learn to be at home here in Riva San Vitale.”  

Program deliverables for participating students will include daily journaling, documenting observations, and evening reflection discussions led by Janice Branch Hall, associate dean for DEIB, as well as a final group project. Upon the conclusion of the trip, students will have hands-on knowledge of the opportunities and challenges international firms and managers face engaging in cross-border business, practical skills to create organizational value through international market expansions, apply learned concepts from Pamplin’s international business course, and more.

Additionally, students will gain cultural and global competencies, an understanding of how to navigate cultural differences, an introduction to how to gain full-time jobs and internships abroad, and firsthand exposure to business environments in an economy with very different dynamics than the United States. 

“This trip is about shaping the future of business through global immersion experiences. Allowing students to travel abroad to gain real-world life and business skills and to enhance access and create pathways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” says Hall. “DEIB Around the World serves to inspire and develop the next generation of culturally informed diverse leaders equipped with the knowledge and practical skills to challenge the status quo and bring forth solutions that will address future business and societal issues of the 21st century.”

- Written by A’me Dalton