University News

Corporate Social Responsibility Program Provides Unique Learning Opportunities

October 2, 2007

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MACOMB, IL -- A 2003 Wall Street Journal survey indicated that the three most important competencies sought in MBA graduates today by corporate recruiters are communication, teamwork and analysis. A Western Illinois University program is providing WIU business students, as well as those at partner institutions, with those competencies and more.

The "Tri-National Competencies Across Borders and Corporate Social Responsibility" program offered by Western's College of Business and Technology and its management department and Office of Global Education, involves students from WIU and the University of Vermont in the U.S. and students from universities in Canada and Mexico. The participating universities colloborate to create innovative curricular and experiential teaching formats to prepare students to work effectively across borders inside the NAFTA marketplace.

"Corporate social responsibility is critical in the North American marketplace, and efforts must be made to foster sustainable and equitable economic development in the future," explained Carol Fimmen, director of Western's Office of Global Education.

The "Tri-National Competencies Across Borders and Corporate Social Responsibility" program is sponsored in part by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the U.S. Department of Education. Students from WIU, Vermont, Mexico's Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro and Universidad Panamericana, and Canada's Universite de Sherbrooke and Universite de Moncton work together via the Internet for course assignments, meet at national conferences to enhance their professional development opportunities and also have the opportunity to study abroad at the participating institutions. Melissa Yeast, a senior agriculture major, and William Reavis, a senior management major, recently completed internships in Mexico as part of the program.

"Participating in the program has been beneficial. Having the chance to work and study about corporate social responsibility will benefit my career no matter where I choose to work," Yeast said. "My internship in Mexico was my second study abroad experience and due to these opportunities, I'm now trilingual, speaking Spanish, Portugese and English."

Yeast's internship was an independent research program collaborating with the Tourism Department of Guadalajara. There she worked on a presentation focusing on recycling and environmental initiatives.

Reavis's internship, which he completed after spending a semester studying in Mexico, was spent working for the U.S.-Mexican Chamber of Commerce where he helped companies integrate across the border.

"This type of training is invaluable," Reavis said. "I've learned a new language and made some great business contacts. It has been interesting to work with the students from other universities and to get the opportunity to learn from them and their perspectives on corporate social responsibility."

WIU Management Professors Steve Axley and Gordon Rands served as instructors for the Internet course and virtual team program, which was taught during the Fall 2006 semester. It was in that class that Yeast, Reavis and the other students began examining how corporations are beginning to review ways they can positively impact society. Axley and Rands are teaching "Managing Corporate Responsibility in a Tri-National Arena" again this semester.

The students from the universities will convene in a major city during the holiday break to finally meet their virtual classmates and attend a professional development conference. In Spring 2008, Western students will attend one of the Canadian or Mexican universities and continue to work with student campus teams on industry and local company analyses of corporate social responsibility issues. In Summer 2008, the participating students have the option of completing an internship in Mexico or Canada.

For more information on the Tri-National Competencies Across Borders and Corporate Social Responsibility," contact Axley at or CBT Advising Center Director Chris Ramsey at

Posted By: Darcie Shinberger (
Office of University Communications & Marketing