Preparing for a Global Economy

Training Offers UT Students Skills for Study, Work and Life in Asia and Southeast Asia

In today’s global economy, cross-cultural communication is a critical skill for college graduates. In late 2015, students at UT Austin gathered on campus to hone that skill in a hands-on training specific to working and living in East and Southeast Asia.

The International Office introduced the Global Professional Training (GPT) in 2010 to supplement academic courses and equip UT students with tangible skills for international working and living. Through expert panels and group discussions, GPT provides students with professional development training, cultural exchange, and an immediate network of international peers.

The full-day conference gives students “the appropriate tools to become global and cultural thinkers, ” said the Director of Special Projects Laurie Young, including effective communication skills and cross-cultural sensitivity.

The first Global Professional Trainings in 2011 and 2013 focused on the Middle East, but the regional focus shifted in 2015 to East and Southeast Asia. Thanks to the support and vision of prominent UT alum William Bollinger (BBA’78 and MBA’80), and his wife Judy, GPT has grown considerably in its impact.

“Most businesses today are multinational, whether it is their customer base, their supply chain, their competitive challengers or all three,” stated Judy and Bill Bollinger. “To sustain and enhance these global connections, it is vital to understand and be sensitive to cultural differences. The opportunities within East and Southeast Asia in particular are immense, but could be at risk without the development of deeper cultural bonds.”

Dr. Huaiyin Li, director of the UT Center for East Asian Studies and one of the expert panelists at GPT, described that East Asia and Southeast Asia are among the most dynamic regions in the global economy.

“Reflecting the growing importance of these regions to the US in trade and foreign relations, we have witnessed a two-way flow of students across the Pacific,” said Dr. Li. “There has been an increasing number of international students from Asia on the UT campus; at the same time, more and more UT students travel to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and so on, for overseas studies programs, internships, or employment opportunities.”

Creating a community of these students is both one of the goals and the benefits of GPT.

“By bringing the students from the two sides together and bridging the cultural gap between the two bodies of students, GPT is a timely and welcome event to all of them,” said Dr. Li.

Umair Feroz Khakoo, a senior Chemistry major, has participated in GPT three times as a representative of Pakistan. “GPT brings together very enthusiastic people who are willing to galvanize something and share their passions,” he said.

Khakoo has gotten a lot out of the training, not just during the sessions during the conference, but continuing interactions with the connections he made with other students. After the 2015 GPT, Khakoo started a conversational Mandarin group with other conference attendees.

“I've found that all students learning Mandarin struggle to find people to practice with at UT, even though so many native speakers at GPT were happy to practice with me,” Khakoo said. “I want to use the conversation table as a platform to enable language learning.”

The support and counseling of the Bollinger family has enabled the International Office to further prepare hundreds of UT students for successful professional interactions and careers in a global context. GPT East and Southeast Asia will continue over a five year period maximize the takeaways for students who desire to work and live in this region.

The next GPT full-day conference takes place April 2, 2016, and is free to students. Learn more or register by March 6 at world.utexas.edu/specialprojects/gpt.