Earlier this summer, Jacksonville State University professors Patricia Borstorff and Christopher Westley traveled with the University of Southern Mississippi-based British Studies Program (BSP) on a fact-finding trip to investigate possible study abroad options for JSU students.
The BSP, one of the longest running international study programs in the United States, is centered at King’s College in London and allows students extensive and immersive study opportunities in London as well as in the rest of Great Britain and the Continent.
Drs. Borstorff and Westley participated in the BSP with the intention of taking JSU students in the summer of 2013. Dr. Westley, a professor of economics who has taught at JSU for twelve years, and Dr. Borstorff, a professor of management and international business who has taught at JSU for twenty-two years, joined a BSP faculty comprised of academics from several disciplines from all over the United States.
Dr. William T. Fielding, dean of the College of Commerce and Business Administration, wanted to establish a solid international business program to assist students in their careers in a global world. Drs. Westley and Borstorff took up the challenge to launch the program at JSU. Both professors sat down with the JSU Office of Public Relations recently to discuss their experience.
“I thought that Dr. Westley would be a good fit for this trip because of his great interest in international economics and business. He and his family visited Rome the previous year and studied and did research there,” said Dr. Borstorff. “We both have international experience. I’ve lived in several countries, studied in eight countries, and speak three languages.”
“She has been around the international block,” Dr. Westley added.
“We went as a team. We were friends and we felt like areas of international business and economics would complement each other,” said Dr. Borstorff.
“We also love the students. We love helping people see all the things that are possible, particularly in the field of international business. The only way we are going to get along in the world is to understand one another,” said Dr. Borstorff.
“We don’t have an international program of the magnitude of the one that University of Southern Mississippi has. USM has many programs to various parts of the world. The British program has over 150 students every summer. They represent a number of universities and study various curriculums to include business, music, theater, English, history, criminal justice, sports management, sociology, art, photography, geography, and library science.
“It is a very broad curriculum that allows immersion in a diverse international environment,” said Dr. Westley. “When we got there, we realized it would be a great place for our students.
They flew to London the last week of June and were there for three weeks.
“The great part of this program is that it has a lot of structure to it,” said Dr. Borstorff. “A student who has never been on an airplane can travel from here and there is someone who helps them all along the way. As the program develops through the three weeks, students get more and more confidence and freedom. Once you’re there they show you how to get on the buses, how to read schedules -- how to do everything.”
“By the second week, the students act like they have been living there for years. It’s a maturation process,” said Dr. Borstorff. By the end of the trip, the students are traveling around Europe by themselves to locations as diverse as Spain, Berlin, Rome, and various islands.
Drs. Borstorff and Westley visited several businesses in London including the Fitch Rating Service, Lloyds of London, the Charlton Athletic Football Club, among others, and participated in several classroom presentations by visiting professors in King’s College classrooms.
They also observed as many non-business disciplines’ activities as possible to be able to tell prospective JSU students from non-business majors what to expect.
Students visited the House of Commons and had a private meeting with the Conservative MP Charles Walker, and later, during the business program’s trip to Brussels, they met with the Irish Socialist member of the European Parliament, Nessa Childers, at the EU headquarters.
“How huge is that?” said Dr. Borstorff and smiled.
Dr. Westley, who is devising a London-based curriculum for the BSP in Political Economy, added, “Not all students will have this opportunity, but for the ones that do it will really add to the quality of their degree.”
Dr. Borstorff added, “Not only their degree, but to their entire life because it will be an experience they’ll never forget. They will have pictures, handbooks, scrapbooks and many memories. We hope we can take students next summer and are working on obtaining funding for partial scholarships.”
Students accepted to the British Studies Program may earn six credits that can be applied toward their graduation requirements. For more information, please contact Dr. Borstorff at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Westley at email@example.com.