Thuy Tien Thi Vo joined the global honors program at the University of Washington Tacoma because she needed extra credit for her business accounting degree.
Now, a year into the program Vo, 41, said the experience has turned into more than the credits she needed to graduate.
“The global aspect of this program, I know for sure it will separate me from my accounting peers,” Vo said. “There are so many opportunities of this program that I would never have gotten at another institution.”
A decade after the global honors program was started at the downtown Tacoma campus, it has led to the creation of the Institute for Global Engagement.
The institute is an expansion of the existing honors program, and allows more undergraduates to participate in the program.
With the expansion also comes the opportunity for students to participate in sponsored research, something often not offered until graduate school.
The institute recently received its first research grant, the Bamford Fellowship for Global Engagement, The grant will allow up to three groups of two students and an adviser to research global issues for a year.
Two teams have already started, including two psychology majors looking at human trafficking. One student is studying abroad as part of her research.
The institute also is geared toward connecting students with the local business community, helping them move from academics to the working world.
“We’re hearing from local businesses that they need a better prepared workforce,” institute director Divya McMillin said.
To help bridge the gap, McMillin has partnered with local professionals, asking them to guest lecture and share their career experiences. She hopes to expand the opportunities to connect more students with local business leaders.
McMillin sees the institute not as a replica or competitor of the university’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies in Seattle, but as a collaborator.
“The intent is not to reinvent the wheel but to really share resources and benefit from each other experiences,” McMillin said.
Tacoma resident Brian Golob is working with McMillin on expanding the program. As the global general counsel and chief compliance officer at Russell Investments in Seattle, Golob travels internationally for work.
During his earlier legal career, he spent time in Japan. He draws on that experience when discussing global issues with students during his weekly guest lectures at UWT.
Academics focus on knowing the theory behind something and being competitive in academia. But that doesn’t always translate to the job market, Golob said.
While in Japan, Golob quickly realized “how different the facts on the ground were than the things I was learning from experts, teachers, books, everything,” he said.
He brings that information plus his current experience working in the global market to the classroom.
Globally people are collaborating more and doing it faster than ever, he said.
“We want students and workers and everybody to collaborate better, faster, sooner, now, so that we can keep up,” Golob said.
To be invited to join the global honors program students must have at least a 3.5 GPA and maintain a 3.3 GPA while in the program.
Students from all majors are encouraged to participate. Those who complete 25 course credits are eligible to graduate with a minor in global engagement.
Students whose majors might limit their ability to participate still can pursue the course by taking fewer credits while focusing on global learning.
Vo, a wife and mother of a college student and high school student, will graduate with a minor in global engagement after presenting her final research paper.
She hopes to pursue her topic — fighting corruption — after graduation.
“I want to go out there and do something,” she said.