A unique program at the USC Marshall School of Business prepares students for an era of shrinking international borders, giving them hands-on experience to develop the tools for business success.
Learning About International Commerce (LINC) exposes USC Marshall freshmen to business practices outside the United States.
The only program of its kind in the country, LINC pairs a two-unit course on international business with a 10-day trip to meet executives and political leaders abroad. It’s a rare opportunity for students to learn about global business “early in their academic career,” said Guillermina Molina-Sabatini, director of undergraduate student services.
And by laying the groundwork for a sustained commitment to exploring diverse cultures and fresh ways of doing business, LINC reinforces one of USC Marshall’s primary goals: equipping students with the knowledge and skills to thrive in a competitive global marketplace.
Nearly 80 percent of USC Marshall’s freshman class participates in overseas travel, a testament to the growing popularity of LINC and its sister initiatives. Destinations include countries such as Chile, Taiwan and Singapore, whose robust economies give them increasing clout both regionally and around the world.
Hubert Chang, a recent participant in LINC’s trip to Singapore, said the experience opened his eyes.
“We visited Ernst & Young, the port of Singapore, the National University of Singapore and Asian Pacific Breweries,” he said. “These visits reaffirmed Singapore’s vibrant economic base and its significant role in globalization and international commerce.”
The trip also drove home the importance of international cooperation in business. “As the irreversible trend of the 21st century,” Chang said, “globalization means we must reach out” and build partnerships to reap financial reward.
That lesson was not lost on Patrick Lauer, who accompanied LINC on a recent visit to Taipei.
For Lauer, the experience highlighted the value of collaborating with, and learning from, international competitors.
“We visited Kaohsiung Hospitality College, which specializes in teaching hospitality to the air, hotel, culinary and travel industries,” he recalled. “It was striking to realize the attention to customer service that is so often overlooked in American hospitality industries.”
Aileen Xu, another Singapore participant, attributed her ability to make the trip, in part, to USC Marshall’s willingness to support LINC with dedicated resources. “The school does a great job of funding students with scholarships,” she said. “The financial aid helped a lot.”
The school is dedicated to including as many students as possible, said Isha Awasthi, who traveled to Santiago, Chile.
For USC Marshall, Awasthi said, the benefit of a well-subscribed program is two-fold: Students develop key insight into “what is happening in the world,” which in turn “allows them to bring a unique perspective to future class discussions,” thereby enriching the entire USC Marshall experience.
In addition to broadening students’ knowledge of international cultures and communities, LINC gives them a chance to make enduring social connections.
“The other students [there were 60 altogether] really put the icing on the cake for this trip,” said Santiago participant Ailis Garcia. Traveling together “allowed me to make new friends.”
Over the course of the trip, Garcia found herself looking inward as well. “As clich� as this sounds, I learned a lot about myself and about my future goals in my career and life.”
Justin Segal, a Singapore participant, is spending the summer working for the Weston Real Estate Management Institute in Shanghai, learning about property development and putting his Mandarin language skills to use.
Having the LINC experience under his belt, he said, “gave me something valuable to talk about in my interviews and application. The fact that I visited influential companies in one of the ‘Asian Tigers’ showed initiative and gave me a unique advantage that not every other applicant could say they had.”