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Experiential and Immersive Experiences at Brandeis IBS

All In: The power of immersion programs in graduate education

Students on World Financial Centers trip in Potsdam, Germany

by Samantha Lawsky
September 30, 2014

“Here at the Brandenburg Gate, a dark political history collides with a bright economic future. We must deliberately think about the significance of places like this so as to not repeat the past. Use all of your senses – logic, feeling, seeing, hearing, intuition – and not just the math of economics and finance. Our worlds are wonderfully complex places and we need to go out and learn from them.”
– Professor John Ballantine, Senior Lecturer and MSF Program Director 

Professor Ballantine’s guiding words echo the core values of immersion programs at Brandeis International Business School (IBS), where classroom learning is just one facet of a globally focused education. Ballantine’s World Financial Centers Program is offered to Master of Science in Finance (MSF) students each summer. Alongside the Hassenfeld Fellow Overseas Immersion Programs, these unique opportunities build off the cornerstone of the school’s mission in emphasizing cultural awareness and adaptability – all with the goal of preparing students to become World Ready professionals.

“These programs bring to life concepts of economics and finance in visits to banks, government institutions, and community organizations,” said Professor Alfonso Canella, Senior Lecturer at Brandeis IBS. Canella has led Hassenfeld Immersion trips to Cuba for three years, weaving together a program that extends the diversity students see every day in the classroom in a world where immersion is not a choice, but a fact of life.  

“The key is to remove them from their comfort zone, thus preparing them to manage surprises that pop up throughout their career,” said Canella.

Professor Can Erbil, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Turkey Initiative at Brandeis IBS, has coordinated Hassenfeld Immersion trips to Turkey for the past six years. In such a heightened format of learning, students find new career and internship opportunities while putting personal and professional goals into perspective.

“Our company visits and meetings with political and business professionals often highlight for our students aspects of their anticipated careers that they may wish to alter, given the real-world insight offered on these trips," said Erbil. “I provide advice and coaching to help adjust their career goals.”

Under the guidance of seasoned faculty members with years of practitioner experience, students receive unparalleled exposure to the world they wish to affect.

“Professor Erbil’s connections provided us with a network that gave a 360-degree view of the Turkish economy, which allowed me to witness concepts I had learned in class executed in real business situations,” said Vinjola Dhamo, MBA ’15.

“My trip was an excellent complement to classroom learning,” adds Karthiga Vivekanandan, MBA ’15. “The experience was a great talking point in relation to the practical training we’re receiving at Brandeis IBS.”

For many students, the resume boost is an important, but secondary result of these trips. It’s the connections, the perspective, and a grasp on how those tools resound in establishing a successful global career, that rank higher. Most importantly, it’s the experience – something many business school students crave but seldom find in such immersive, head-on ways.

“What Brandeis IBS and these trips are all about is learning and feeling the context of history, politics, economics, culture, and of course, the people,” said Ballantine. “This is what we do – we map the field of our worlds and expand our sense of what is happening to affect informed change.”