Faculty Highlight: Dr. Linda Gerber’s Visions for International Business
Without the contributions of Dr. Linda Gerber, it is safe to say that global business education at McCombs School of Business would be very different. She leveraged her experience and ability to improve the global perspective on business provided to business students at McCombs. In her time as the former director of UT’s CIBER (Center for International Business Education — now the Center for Global Business), she connected McCombs with top business schools around the world, spearheaded the creation of McCombs’s study abroad initiatives, and much more. Today, she remains involved in the international business major as the faculty advisor by helping IB students and teaching the undergraduate course on International Trade and Investment. Her time working on international business initiatives has given her a unique perspective on business education and the international community, some of which she shared with us here.
Lessons from Abroad
Dr. Gerber’s experience teaching in Germany allowed her to feel the firsthand impact of international experiences, she spoke fondly of the many adventures she went on during her days off. She laughingly recalls her trip to Paris and how she mistakenly attributed the loud cheers for France’s World Cup victory to French people celebrating their love for the Eiffel Tower out of the blue. Her experience living in Europe opened her eyes to new cultural perspectives that helped her comprehend the full effects of international experience for students. For her, studying or interning abroad can really help students immerse themselves in foreign cultures which will strengthen their global perspectives and enrich their lives.
After one of her students returned from studying abroad Dr. Gerber noticed a shift in a student’s confidence level after his international experience in France through the way he openly greeted her in the hallways. Musing on the stark contrast between his new confidence and his past shyness, Dr. Gerber was amazed by the behavioral changes that occurred as a direct result of his international experiences. Because of these sorts of positive changes, Dr. Gerber serves as one of the biggest advocates for international experience in McCombs.
Bigger Picture Thinking
A firm believer in the importance of understanding business within the context of the global environment, Dr. Gerber expresses her passion for our ever-changing economy by keeping up to date with domestic and international news. Enthusiastic about relating business knowledge to current events, she hopes to teach IB 350: International Trade in the future. Specifically, she enjoys cultivating business students’ big-picture thinking skills through teaching this course again.
To build on this outside of the classroom, Dr. Gerber encourages students to pay attention to ongoing events around the world. Attentive to global affairs, she identifies two distinct directions the future of international business could take. The first scenario is a new Cold War between the authoritarian and democratic regimes. As our world becomes increasingly divided due to differing political and economic philosophies, the global market will also become more polarized. The second scenario involves imposing semi-isolation on authoritarian regimes. Despite her doubt on this strategy’s economic success, Dr. Geber anticipates an increase in diplomacy among western democracies. She believes this change in diplomatic relations would then help maintain international peace. Dr. Gerber prefers the harmonious nature of this scenario as she regards peace to be significantly more important to the flourishing of international business.
Due to her awareness of the global economy, Dr. Gerber knows that the future is dependent on students developing big picture thinking. And while it’s important to consistently expand one’s global perspective, it is also essential for students to practice how to harness the skills they learn through McCombs’s IB education. To help students prepare for the global workplace, Dr. Gerber understands the importance of developing a curriculum that focuses on technical international business skills. Which is why Dr. Gerber and other faculty members decided to revise the IB program at McCombs and give students the choice of two paths.
On the Opportunities for Students
The program revision was prompted by the IB faculty’s realization that business students today are more “professionally focused” than they were before. Acknowledging the growing demand for classes that guide the development of international business acumen, Dr. Gerber and other IB faculty members created two tracks for the International Business major: the skill track and the language track. With the skill tracks focusing on practical knowledge in global business and the language track focusing on the cross-cultural aspect of business, the revision of the program not only allows IB students to choose courses that align with their interests but also opens up international business education to all McCombs students. Since IB courses in the skill track cross-list courses from other business majors, business undergraduates can take international business classes to fulfill their degrees. Dr. Gerber is confident that this revision will give all McCombs students the chance to develop global readiness skills that can enhance their adaptability to globalization.
Global readiness skills can also be cultivated through the cross-cultural nature of the language track. Stating how one can “always buy in English, but can’t always sell in English,” Dr. Gerber identifies the effectiveness of engaging with international businesses using their local language. In regards to global readiness, learning a new language can help students gain the global sensibility to connect with cultures across the world. Additionally, Dr. Gerber insists that the formation of a global perspective occurs during the language acquisition process as one becomes more culturally conscious. This cultural mindset then not only helps students connect with the country they are working abroad in but also integrate into the international workplace. Having identified language learning as a highly sought out skill, Dr. Gerber encourages students to challenge themselves by learning a new language. Endorsing the language track, she also advises students to put their newly acquired language skills to the test by studying or interning abroad.
Words of Wisdom
Drawing from her experience as a professor and faculty advisor, Dr. Gerber consolidated the lessons she learned from her academic journey into three distinct pieces of advice to undergraduate students in McCombs. Dr. Gerber saw how student exposure to foreign cultures can not only enrich one’s life but also boost one’s confidence. Therefore her first piece of advice which she deems most important is to study or intern abroad. Students not only get to complete their coursework in an exciting new environment, but also get an opportunity to enhance their understanding of the world by immersing themselves in foreign cultures. The second piece of advice is for students to find a middle ground between the things they’re good at, the things they love, and the things that society rewards. Maintaining a happy life can be very difficult if one pursues a career that they either find unrewarding or have no passion or talent for. The last piece of advice Dr. Gerber stressed is that students should always keep an open mind. The decisions students are making now are all starting points to many more choices and many more opportunities in the future. Recognizing that “life isn’t a straight line,” Dr. Gerber tells students “Don’t expect the decisions you’re making now to be the thing that determines the rest of your life. There will be a lot of doors and opportunities that open along the way.”
Written by Juolin Tsai, Intern at the Center for Global Business