For students who have not studied abroad, it is probably difficult to imagine professors outside of the classroom. Through study abroad programs, however, professors not only manage to interact with students out of the classroom, but also out of the country.
There was a demand for a study abroad trip to India for years. Students finally got the opportunity to travel to India during the past spring break. Not only was it a new opportunity for the students, it was a new opportunity for Professor Smita Jain Oxford, a senior business lecturer. It was her first time leading a study abroad trip.
Oxford took a group of students to Mumbai, Delhi and Agra in India.
“The point of the course was to immerse them in a culture and a communication style that’s very different from what they’re used to,” said Oxford.
During their eight days in India, Oxford and her students managed to visit five businesses companies, with diverse focuses, including, Bollywood, PR and advertising. They also had the opportunity to meet television and movie stars, to attend lectures designed for their class, and to appear on Indian television.
“The best part was just how many different aspects of the culture we got to see. India is a country of extremes, and our visits highlighted that beautifully,” said Oxford.
“The students learned not just the communication strategies and mindsets of Indian audiences, they got a real appreciation for the culture. There are so many stereotypes about places that are different or far away or big or known, like India; this trip let the students see the country for themselves and make their own impressions.
For me, it was really fun because I got to see a culture I know so well through their eyes, and I got to watch them experience it and engage with it. I got as much out of it as they did.”
Oxford has taught at UMW for ten years. She teaches Business Communication and Negotiation. She has a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and sociology, an MBA in finance and international business, and a M.A. in English with a focus in American literature.
“I wanted to come to a small school. I wanted to come to a liberal arts school. Mary Washington just fit the bill. That’s why I came here. I stayed here because the students are the best I’ve worked with,” said Oxford.
Next on Oxford’s agenda is creating a course in crisis communication.
“If you think about some of the business crises that we’ve had in recent times, for example the British Petroleum Oil Spill or the Malaysia Air Disaster, it’s not easy to communicate on things that are such outliers and things that have such a deep negative fiscal impact. The communication you have to do for those kinds of events is much different than your day-to-day business communication,” said Oxford.