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Bentley trips to Egypt and India help students better understand meaning of global economy

January 21, 2004

Welcome to India

From the Taj Mahal in India to the Sphinx in Egypt, Bentley students in two international short-term study programs traveled some 27,000 miles, not only to see some of the two country's stunning landmarks and culture, but to better understand what role each country plays in a global economy.

Students from both trips will be talking about their experiences on February 4 during an open house at the Cronin International Center from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

For the ten Bentley graduate students who traveled January 2-14 with Satya Prakash Saraswat, professor of Computer Information Systems, and Sri Vasudevan, assistant professor of Computer Information Systems, the trip was an opportunity to see business process outsourcing in practice at companies in Bangalore, India.

"The purpose of the trip was to understand the complexities of outsourcing information technology (IT) and how the companies pull this off when faced with the challenge of making outsourcing work across the continents," said Vasudevan. "Unlike manufacturing outsourcing, business process outsourcing involves ongoing communication with the parties involved. So we wanted to know how companies communicate when you have multiple cultures, multiple time zones, and multiple languages - and you're communicating with strangers."

The Bentley group was hosted by the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India, according to Vasudevan. On each of the working days, professors from IIM gave two talks in the morning, followed by lunch and a site visit to one of the IT companies, followed by wrap-up sessions in the afternoon.

Prior to the trip, students wrote research papers on an Indian IT company and after each site visit, wrote a summary report on what they had learned about outsourcing. Now that the trip is behind them, students will write a comprehensive research paper.


Bangalore has become a center for information technology, in part because for 30 years educational institutions there have emphasized technology, according to Vasudevan. But it also owes its success to Indian government policies that allow IT companies to thrive: Companies exporting software are not taxed, for example. India also has a large pool of English-speaking, technology-skilled workers whose labor does not cost as much as American software engineers; as a consequence, many American companies are outsourcing jobs to India's highly-skilled labor force, a practice that has drawn both criticism and praise in the U.S. Critics say American companies should not be "exporting" jobs and proponents say that the practice can lead to a company's health and ultimately create more jobs for American workers.


Highlights of the trip included a visit to "call centers" and an informal talk by Infosys Chairman Narayan Murthy over pizza and Coke; after the academic portion of the trip was over, the group had some for some sightseeing in New Delhi.


"In today's globalized economy, the more students understand different cultures and different ways of doing things in other parts of the world, the more prepared they'll be for what's going to be demanded of them in whatever it is they're going to do," Vesudevan said.


Welcome to Egypt


Denis Sullivan, professor and chair of International Studies and director of the Cronin International Center, led his 13th student trip - his first for Bentley - to Cairo, Egypt, December 28 - January 9.


The group of 15 Bentley undergraduates, from freshmen to seniors, and a handful of faculty and staff, focused on commerce and culture, a theme Sullivan says he is "keen on promoting" at Bentley.


The group divided its time between the cultural and historical experience that is Egypt, and the commercial, financial and business experience, according to Sullivan. In addition to visiting mosques, churches, synagogues and the Pyramids, the group visited the World Bank, the American Chamber of Commerce, the American Embassy and the Egyptian equivalent of the Council on Foreign Affairs. The students also had a chance to visit some Egyptian non-profits.


"I'm new to Bentley and I really want to turn people on to Egypt, in particular, but also to the whole Arab world. Egypt is the gateway," said Sullivan, who is a consultant to the U.S. State Department on Islam and the Middle East and a member of the World Bank's Palestinian NGO Project.


In preparation for the trip, students met four times in about six weeks," said Sullivan, who said the team-building is important because "you want the students to buy into the theme and the expectations of the trip."


With the conclusion of the experience, students will make portfolios to put the trip into context.


Student majors ranged from International Studies to Behavioral and Political Sciences, but a majority of the students were business majors.


"The students so impressed me," said Sullivan. "They were the best group I've ever taken, best in the sense that they were the most respectful to the culture and to each other," said Sullivan.


International short-term trips are about connecting academics with the real world, according to Paul Beran, Bentley's new coordinator of the programs, who also went on the trip to Egypt. "In Egypt, students had a connection with people and systems and ways of business that they hadn't thought about before and all of a sudden their experience was beyond studying."


"For me," said Sullivan, "it's the most rewarding experience (as a professor), not just because I get to take people to my second home or to a place I absolutely love, but to be able to really understand your students and see them blossom."


For more information on the variety of international short-term study programs go to

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