Students in Europe

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Dr. Sara Bliss Kiser, COBA professor of Management and one of the tour's directors.  

COBA Students Study Abroad in France and Belgium to Promote International Business Education

By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU 

Students and faculty from Alabama State University's Percy J. Vaughn, Jr. College of Business Administration (COBA) recently returned from an in-depth business practices and models study tour in the European Union (EU), with a specific emphasis on France and Belgium. The tour was funded by a U.S. Department of Education Business and International Education grant. Alabama State University was one of only 20 schools selected from across the nation for the grant, explained Dr. Sara Bliss Kiser, COBA professor of Management and one of the tour's directors. 

Kiser stated that the opportunity focused on experiential learning through a 10-day overseas study tour from May 9 - May 19. Eight students participated in the tour:  Edward Bernard Brown, Jr.Tre'von ConnerZiyhon Cordell Hubert, Dylan Hill Stallworth, Raegan Elicia Ballinger, Amber Jearne Frazier, Haley Nicole Heard and Bernadette Payne. The three COBA faculty members who attended and who were involved in actively educating the business students on various topics were COBA's dean, Dr. Kamal Hingorani, instructor Kim Smith and Kiser. 


Kiser explained that while in France, the ASU group visited KPMG and the Paris School of Business. 

"At KPMG, we learned about their sustainability efforts and auditing and the different requirements in Europe. At the Paris School of Business, we learned about the educational requirements and practices in France and in Europe. In particular, the use of apprenticeships and internships," Kiser said. "On the cultural side, we went to the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Catacombs which all helped us learn about the culture of the area. We also enjoyed a one-hour river cruise on the Seine and visited Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde (where Queen Marie Antoinette and many others lost their heads during the French Revolution), the Champs de Elysee, and the Arc de Triomphe." 

Kiser said their briefings with KPMG were very informative. 

"KPMG briefings informed us that Europe as a whole has a little more stringent environmental standards than what we have in the United States; however, it does depend on the industry," Kiser said. 


The group saw more governmental workings during the Belgium visit.

"During our Belgium study event, we went on a tour of the European Commission where the heads of state in the European Union meet. We were lucky enough to be there on one of the tour days," Kiser said. "We were able to see the Commission's meeting room and learn more about its inner workings. They also had a secondary area for short films to learn more about how the European Union began." 

The ASU group learned about the European Union’s rotating leadership process, and they also visited the European Parliament for a self-guided audio tour where they were able to see the equivalent of America's Congress for the European Union.  

"It was a great opportunity to learn about how the governments of Europe meet and work out laws that affect all 27 current countries. We also took a day-trip to Maastricht in the Netherlands. This was by train and we were provided a city tour and tour of the University located there." 

For fun, the group had an afternoon of chocolate making in Belgium, the home of what many consider to be some of the best chocolate in the world. They also visited the Grand Place for history, food, and shopping.

Kiser said that overall, these types of study trips help expand the students’ academic horizons.  

"I applaud this type of study because it helps students learn more than stereotypes. Our students got to see a part of the world they may or may not ever get to visit again, and that is why experiential learning is important because you see and do the activities such as being able to sit outside at a bistro for lunch in Paris, walk among the
ruins of the Roman and Napoleonic military camps in Belgium, and learn more about how people live and businesses and governments operate."


The COBA dean, Dr. Hingorani, stated that the study tour focused on experiential learning by allowing the students to observe the progress made by the EU in improving environmental standards, specifically carbon emissions, which contributes to the greenhouse effect on the Earth's environment.

"It is good and necessary that our students are exposed to the culture, history, and business practices in different parts of the world firsthand through experiential learning (seeing it in-person)," said Hingorani.

The Dean explained that experiential learning has long been used as a tool in business education to provide students with hands-on learning exercises that complement their in-class education.  

"To achieve our objective of focused, in-person learning, we have implemented this competitive study tour to the EU." stated Hingorani. "This grant will allow us to repeat a similar study abroad event again next summer (2024) as well, so that we may expose even more Alabama State students to studying in-person about what we have taught them first in the classroom. This is also exposing our diverse cadre of students to traveling abroad, a worldly view, which many have only previously dreamed of seeing. This will create an important and positive ASU educational moment and a good memory they may share with fellow students and family."

News media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.