There’s a lot more to be learned than what is found in textbooks, as students from The University of Southern Mississippi discovered when taking part in Export University, which was held Feb. 23-24 on the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, Miss.
“Export University is something that’s very unique in that we’re having a convergence of government officials, business leaders and our students in a single forum where the present-day business leaders and future business leaders all come together and deal with things shoulder-to-shoulder in a real world, real-time conference,” explained Dr. John Lambert, assistant professor of international business at Southern Miss Gulf Coast.
An annual event for business professionals sponsored in part by the USM College of Business, Export University is a training program of the Mississippi District Export Council, an affiliate of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This series of courses on exporting is designed to help Mississippi companies begin an export initiative, so as to gain increasing skills and innovativeness in their international sales. However, over the years there has been an added benefit - one for students – coming from the two-day event.
“I think business is ever-changing right now and I think these students will get a leg-up on a lot of the people they’re interviewing against,” explained Rick Marino, regional sales manager at Kuehne & Nagel, Inc. of Memphis, Tenn. “When I was here last year, I thought it was all about what the students would get out of Export University, but when I left, I realized it was also what I got out of it as well as the students. It’s mutually beneficial.”
This year’s list of presenters was like a who’s who of international business which included Donald Hoffman, president of the Louisiana chapter of the French American Chamber of Commerce; Darlene Kattan, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Enrique Hurtado, deputy director of trade development at the Mississippi State Port Authority in Gulfport, Miss.; and Glenn Sigler, vice president of global trade finance with Regions Bank in Mobile, Ala. With more than two dozen speakers, the significance of the event was appreciated by both professional and student attendees.
“It really puts it into perspective what the real world is like,” explained Anthony Ladner, a Southern Miss Gulf Coast graduating senior. “We’re told that if your business is not incorporated internationally, your business isn’t going to move forward and your business is going to become stagnant – and that’s not what business is about. It’s about working and making money, essentially.”
For at least one regular attendee of Export University, her experience has come full circle. First attending as a Southern Miss student, Jessica Gordon, class of 2007, has now found herself as an organizer and presenter at the event.
“I really understand the value of Export University because that’s how I received my job,” said Gordon. “So now my role is to get students the same opportunity to work in international business. I think by having both the companies and the students here, it really creates an opportunity to share.”